Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ode to Daniel Pink's Symphony

musical euphoria.
Our feet keep time with their rhythms.
Our voices ring out in song,
for others, a hum.
Why do we connect
with these symphonies?
Why is there such an innate appreciation
for this music?
We find a bit of ourselves
in them,
audible reflections of our individual
and collective humanity.

Oh that schools were like a symphony!
and distinct,
working together to create
an educational masterpiece,
everyone seeing the big picture
and working towards
accomplishing shared goals.

Oh that schools were like a symphony!
visualizing, yet
moving beyond what is seen
thinking outside of the box
We have something
Looking for solutions.
Finding them in each other,
in the unlikeliest places.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Digital Storytelling

Storytelling is a significant part of every culture. Some shared their stories through drawings and others, through an oral tradition that has survived the passing of time. Fast forward to the 21st century with our cell phones, Blackberries, iPods and laptops. Conversation and other less modern forms of communication seem to have gone the way of the wooly mammoth, but, on the contrary, instead of extinction, technology has created new ways of storytelling that have taken the best of the oral and visual traditions and joined it with the best technology tools to create digital stories that are not only reflective of the latest gadgets but are both factual and heartfelt.

Digital Storytelling is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories. British photographer, educator and digital storyteller, Daniel Meadows defines digital stories as short, personal multimedia tales told from the heart (http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/). While this is true, digital stories do not have to be fictitious in nature. Neither do they have to be cold and impersonal. They can be factual, historical and delightfully individual, hence their overall appeal.

Digital stories may be personal or historical narratives. They can even be a combination of personal, historical narrative that can transport us through time in a matter of minutes. Regardless of its content, its success is accomplished through careful synthesis of Bloom's taxonomy with the tools of technology which allow students to create, evaluate, analyze, apply, describe, explain, and remember through podcasting, blogging, voicethreads, and social networking, to name a few.

But the success of digital storytelling is not only dependent on its technological content, it's contingent on the elements of traditional storytelling; inclusion of a dramatic question, emotion, narration, sound, fluid timing, and brevity, all of which work together to convey a human experience through words and images.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Social Justice, Choice or Necessity?

We can all agree that technology use, in the classroom, has a direct impact on the achievement gap in our educational institutions, as well as in the professional world. We are also aware of the responsibility that teachers have of effectively incorporating instructional technology, using approaches that go beyond assessment, skill development, word processing and reward. However, the focus of the authors’ argument is misguided and limited in its scope. Rather than place the burdens of access and achievement gap reduction on teachers, the authors should concentrate on the use of technology, as a tool, to encourage social justice, enrich students’ educational experiences, and equip them to promote awareness of social injustice.
There are many ways that technology can be used to assist teachers in raising awareness about social injustice. For example, Google Earth has linked up with the USHMM (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) “to help inform citizens, governments, and institutions about current and potential genocides and related crimes against humanity, and to respond.” [1] As a result of their efforts, teachers now have access to resources for the express purpose of teaching their students to actively participate in the achievement of social justice in Darfur.
This is just a starting point. Once teachers take advantage of resources offered by websites and search engines like Google, they can further develop the technological skills of their students with thematic class wikis, voice threads and blogs, while simultaneously bridging the digital divide, expanding students’ knowledge about technology, and affecting social change both in and outside of the classroom.
By choosing to infuse the curriculum with issues of social justice via technology, teachers demonstrate the importance of social justice that exceeds the boundaries of school and home, making technology a necessity and the only choice for their students.

[1] http://www.ushmm.org/maps/

Edyburn, Colleen Swain and David. "Social Justice, Choice or Necessity?" Learning & Leading With Technology March 2007: 14-18.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Passport To Digital Citizenship

“Am I using this technology appropriately? Are we teaching students to become more respon-sible with their behavior,and does this carry over when they go home? Do we have a “common language” that we can use to talk to students and parents about appropriate technology behavior?" (pg.15)

These are several key questions that have been appropriately placed, at the beginning of the reading, for our careful consideration. They force us, as responsible adults and school communities, to examine our own behavior regarding appropriate technology usage. Most importantly, their purpose is to elicit responses that are direct, clear and honest. However, although I would like to think that I represent most, if not all, educators, I can only speak for myself.

I would like to believe that I have modelled proper technology use, by active example, because I use educator and student-friendly (read as appropriate) sites, but apart from introducing my students to web 2.0 tools, I have not made a conscientious effort to show them what responsible behavior looks like. My exhibiting a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning,and productivity, and demonstrating personal responsibility for lifelong learning are not enough if I am not advocating and practicing safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.

Am I admitting criminal or illegal activity? No, at least not intentionally. (How many images have you used without citing its source? So, now you may please put down your stones.) What I am saying is that we must be clear when we teach students proper and improper technology use. We must provide them with examples of both, so that they know what to and what not to do. We must teach them to identify fact from fiction, to recognize false and verifiable information, instead of blocking websites and scolding them for visiting popular sites like Facebook and YouTube when they are in school.

Even so, our best efforts are still not enough when teaching students about being good digital citizens because we cannot just address their heads or minds, we must capture their hearts or that place where they will be able to internalize good digital citizenship. How do we do this? By modeling appropriate technology usage, guided, unrestricted practice, using errors and mistakes as learning opportunities, modelling consistent, good digital citizenship throughout the school (e.g. all faculty and support staff), and encouraging ongoing evaluation and discussion about digital citizenship among students, teachers, and parents.

Within this framework, students will be provided with access, a passport of sorts, that ensures and protects their right and ability to participate in a digital society, to exchange information, purchase goods, develop digital literacy, exercise digital etiquette, know and exercise their rights as digital citizens, and engage in activities that protect their information, as well as their psychological and physical wellbeing.

So, back to the questions posed at the beginning. Are we teaching students to become more responsible with their behavior, and does this carry over when they go home? Do we have a “common language” that we can use to talk to students and parents about appropriate technology behavior?" Yes, we have begun the journey towards teaching students how to become responsible digital citizens, but we still have a long way to go. However, as we and our school communities increase our technology use and commit ourselves to engage in activities that promote good digital citizenship, we will develop a common language, an authentic document or, here's that word again, a universal passport that guarantees everyone's right to travel throughout the digital world and governs proper technology use at home, school, and abroad.

Ribble, M. (2008-2009, December-January). Passport to Digital Citizenship: Journey Toward Appropriate Technology Use At School and Home. Learning & Leading With Technology , pp. 14-17.