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Collaborator Most Recent Post

Project Management and Collaboration with MS Teams

 

Project Management and Collaboration with MS Teams

When Microsoft (MS) Teams was first breaking ground in the spheres of education, a few colleagues and I had the opportunity to pilot the platform in use with students in a classroom setting. At the time, my district and school were not ready for a platform like this to be used with students in a classroom setting. Our students did not have their own devices forcing educators to reserve laptop carts or computer labs to provide students access to computers. I spoke with professionals who used Teams in the workplace and they were ecstatic about its collaboration and communicative functionality. We tried utilizing the platform for online discussions and collaboration, but it wasn’t the best tool to do that at the time. It is also quite possible that I and other staff members were not trained enough to get the most out of it. I do recall the students’ feedback about MS Teams was that it was unreliable and disorganized, which makes sense given how new it was and how our building and students were not equipped with the technology to leverage the platform to its full capabilities. 

Fast forward to present day, teaching and learning in my district looks a lot different. The pandemic forced an acceleration of investing in technology for staff and students. We are not a 1:1 student machine district, every educator is given a laptop, and we are obligated to almost exclusively use Microsoft products. MS Teams is the sole telecommunications platform that our district uses with staff and students, and although we have experienced significant issues and unreliability with the product at the cost of serving our students furthest from educational justice, MS Teams is here to stay for us. An emerging issue is the blurred line between using Teams more like a Learning Management System (LMS) when educators are being told that our existing LMS is not going away. With all that being said, MS Teams has come a long way since I first tested it in my classroom with students. 

Our school district has made a commitment to continue to use the platform moving forward as we work to figure out how to bring teaching and learning back into the classroom safely. MS Teams is still evolving with constant updates in features and  new apps. My department in our school district uses Teams in combination with Office 365 to plan, work and collaborate with each other. Additionally, Teams is also used by educators to host class meetings with students and foster peer to peer collaboration. MS Teams is still evolving with constant updates along with new features and apps. I haven’t necessarily had the time to explore all of these, so for this module I’d like to dig deeper into how to best leverage Teams for collaboration and project management. 

My Question:

How can specific features and apps in Microsoft Teams support the collaboration of resources and ideas between educators and students?

 

ISTE Educator Standard 4: Collaborator

Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems

Solution:

If you have never used MS Teams in an educational setting before, then I recommend checking out the Microsoft Education web page and/or Common Sense Education’s review. I decided to organize this solution into two separate categories: features and apps. Features include characteristics that are inherent to MS Teams that don’t require an additional add-in, app, etc. I want to consider ways educators can collaborate using the existing functionality of MS Teams. On the other hand, apps have to be manually added by the user and can be added to different locations within the Teams platform. Apps can help educators stay informed, simplify workflow, and find new ways to work together. Finally, my solution is tailored to my current role and what features and apps are available in my school district. I wanted to investigate ways that Teams could better support project management and collaboration for my colleagues and I. Our district leadership has decided to not make available the full functionality of MS Teams for Education. Your version of Teams may be different from our experience.  

 

Features:

One of the toughest challenges for new users, whether they be students or staff, is navigating new digital platforms, especially one as robust as MS Teams. A common critique of Microsoft tools is that novice users may find it busy and daunting to learn how to use them (Common Sense Education Review). With thoughtful planning, thorough training and onboarding resources, and practice, MS Teams can be a powerful collaboration tool. It is also critical for an institution to develop consistency in how they organize their online spaces and their workflow. To get started, I love these pre-generated templates from Bind Tuning (Griffin, 2021). They also work with existing Teams that you may have already created. Here is an description of what a K-12 template starts with:

Teams, Channels, Files, Tabs and Chats:

Teams are online hubs that can facilitate collaboration and sharing of information more efficiently. It is my belief that how your Teams are organized is critical for effective collaboration. Teams can be generated for classrooms and used with students, but it is also a helpful tool in supporting staff collaboration. Teams can be created for classrooms, PLCs, all staff, or clubs and other interests groups. Various channels can be created inside of a team, and this is a great way that the tool can facilitate focused collaboration around projects, activities, committees, and processes as needed (Microsoft Teams for Education). They also recommend best practice for channel creation should be based on the Team’s different needs like topic, discipline, or subject (Microsoft Teams for Education). Each channel can then house files that are specific to the intention of that Team. Instead of attaching files to email threads, collaborators can now access every document that they need within their Team and specific channels. Each channel also includes a General channel where OneNote Notebook are accessible within the Teams platform  or you can add them as tabs in other channels as you wish(if you’re curious about how to leverage OneNote for collaboration, check this resource out as a starting point). Here are some ideas for using channels with staff and/or students:

  • Private channels for small-group work
  • Channels themed into units, topics, or projects
  • Q&A or resources channels
  • Channels for collaborative study spaces for students
  • Channels organized around support topics: software, devices, trainings
  • Social channels for networking or building community

(Miller & Clark, 2021)

Tabs are built-in pages that can be customized within each channel. Tabs support collaboration by allowing team members to access services and content in a dedicated space inside of a channel. This allows the team to work directly with tools and data, and have conversations with each other, all inside of the channel or chat (Microsoft Tabs page). For quick access to any Office 365 collaborative doc, web page, or app, tabs help streamline access to important documents instead of sharing them through email or hunting down files in large Sharepoint spaces. 

Another valuable feature of the Teams platform is Teams Chats. They ways in which we communicate has evolved alongside the evolution of communication technology. Similar to current texting and messaging on mobile devices, Teams Chat provides a quick, less formal space to communicate and collaborate with individuals or in groups. A user can create a Chat from scratch and a chat is generated for all Teams meetings and channels. Chats are great for informal and quick communication for collaboration with students or colleagues. A strategy that works well for me is pinning the chats I frequently interact with the most. Chats don’t get deleted, so you may start to have your chats pile up and this can be challenging to manage and find the chat you’re looking for (there is a search feature that you can use to find buried chats as well). For example, I pin the chats of all of my 8 team members that I communicate and collaborate with on a daily basis. I also pin chats with educators that I am in frequent coaching practice with as well as the chats from channels that I am collaborating on projects in (Microsoft Teams). 

The inherent features of the MS Teams platform offers a wide range of flexibility and customization. The challenge then becomes organizing those online collaborative spaces in a way that is organized and promotes an easy and efficient workflow. Here are just a few examples of how education staff can work together that transfers well to Teams:

  • School Improvement Advisory Committees: effective school improvement programs and initiatives require staff access to rich data analytics and easy collaboration among diverse stakeholders that include administrators, faculty, and others across the district.
  • Incident Response Plans: when an incident occurs, fast and accurate communication helps to ensure an effective response. Using TEams, incident response teams can easily draft and share timely and appropriate information with students, parents, the community, and coordinate additional resources.
  • Social and Emotional Learning programs: SEL programs can promote academic success and positive behavior while reducing emotional distress and general misconduct. Channels in Teams can be organized, for example, around the five key SEL competencies: self=awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. 
  • Teacher evaluations: evaluating teacher performance is a time-consuming, but important regular activity. Using Teams, administrators can share professional development resources with all teachers in the General channel, and manage private communications (in Conversations) and content (for example, using OneNote Staff Notebooks) with individual teachers in separate channels. 

(Microsoft Teams)

Apps to Support Collaboration:

Users can also add apps to their Teams platform to further support collaboration and streamline workflow. Apps can be added to the app bar (located on the side of the Teams platform), to a tab within a channel, or as an option in a chat box. Not all of these apps are specifically designed for educational purposes, but they are still effective tools inside of the platform that you can add. These apps are organized into 4 categories:

  • Productivity apps – increase productivity with workflow and process automation
  • Project management apps – easily navigate complex projects using process automation apps and tools
  • Industry-specific apps – address industry-specific needs with custom-built apps
  • Business department apps – execute everyday responsibilities with job-specific apps

The apps that are designed for education are organized into 4 categories:

  • Student engagement apps – make learning and teaching more fun and interactive, stay on course and track class progress easily, and boost student morale and teamwork
  • Content aggregation apps – consolidate all learning resources in a single online library, and embed and share videos with others; this includes apps that set up LMS within a Channel
  • Virtual classroom solutions – set up meetings for your online classroom directly
  • Whiteboarding – brainstorm creative ideas together

Here is a slideshow that shows apps relevant to these categories.

(Microsoft Teams)

My district only uses Teams as a telecommunications platform with students, so for this solution, I will not be covering apps that help educators track and collaborate with students. However, this slideshow does a great job of categorizing and explaining apps that do just that should your district or school use Teams more like a Learning Management System. It is possible that your IT Admin may have blocked apps from being used like my district has, so this may explain why I may not cover an app that may seem obvious in supporting collaboration. 

Here are just a few education specific apps that I wish were available to my team and my district:

  • Freehand by Invision: draw, plan, and collaborate with your team on an infinite whiteboard in real time
  • Wakelet: save, organize, and present content. Great for resource gathering, newsletter sharing, and portfolio building. 
  • Stormboard: collaborative workspace to generate ideas, prioritize/vote, and organize. Includes templates to support more productive and effective collaboration of projects. 
  • Interested in apps that provide LMS kinds of services within Teams? Check out LMS365, go1, or Beedle. Note – Your existing LMS may also be integrated with MS Teams like Canvas, Blackboard, and Schoology to name a few. 

(Microsoft 365 & Security for Partners)

Apps that are currently available to my colleagues and I: 

  • Insights in Teams – provides analytical data about your students progress in your class that can be shared with colleagues. This app requires that you have some features like assignments and assessments available in your classroom Teams. 
  • Viva InsightsA project management, productivity, and workplace analytics tool. You can schedule focused work time to be undisturbed, schedule coaching time with your manager, and reflect on your social and emotional health. The stay connected experience of the app helps you maintain relationships with people in your network, follow up on communication, and track meetings. 
  • Roadmap: Microsoft Project – an app designed for project management, this app allows managers and their teams to keep track of multiple projects at once. You can share and collaborate on your roadmap, update the status of projects and provide timelines. 
  • Project Another Microsoft project management and workflow tool however, this is more comprehensive than the Roadmap app that focuses solely on timelines. This app does include a timeline feature, but it also allows for better management of tasks and personnel as well as different views to examine the progress of projects.
  • Tasks by Planner and to Do (Tasks app) – The Tasks app in MS Teams combines your individual tasks from the To Do and Outlook with your team’s tasks from Planner. This is basically an individual and collaborative to do list that is ideal for project management. This is one of the more straightforward collaborative apps produced by Microsoft for Teams.
  • Approvals – easily create, manage, and share approvals directly from a channel or in the Teams platform. My colleagues and I create staff and student facing projects frequently, and they must be approved by our supervisor before they can be published. Typically we do this through email, but I love to try and keep my Outlook inbox focused on formal communication with staff. Using this app would allow us to more effectively submit projects for approval within Teams and streamline our workflow.  
  • Employee Ideas – A Team’s app that allows managers to review, manage,and vote upon team’s ideas. Managers and employees can create categories for ideas around common themes. Employees can then submit ideas and attach images, notes, and files. These ideas can then be voted on. This particular app is advertised for manufacturing, retail, and hospitality, but I can see this app being applicable in any team collaborative setting. For educators, this could be a great app to pose problems of practice to generate ideas of solutions.

Conclusion:

My research for this module was focused on digging deeper into a digital tool that is used by every staff member and student in my district. Specifically, I set out to learn more about different ways to organize and leverage this tool for collaboration. Since my district has limited the accessibility of some of the features of Teams for educational purposes, we do not have access to many of the education specific apps that support collaboration. This also made it difficult to consult sources of how teachers were using the MS Teams platform. The restrictions limit the ways educators in my district can facilitate collaboration with students and they are challenged with using other collaborative tools that are approved for use. However, many of the corporate and professional apps that are designed to increase productivity, collaboration, and workflow are available. I believe that many of these apps are still useful for collaborative work amongst colleagues, administrators, and managers. Furthermore, the inherent features of MS Teams including channels, tabs, file storage/sharing, and chats are features that are widely leveraged to support collaboration with students and staff. In reviewing survey data and anecdotal experiences of staff and students, it is critical that these features are organized and simplified in a way that is most easily accessible and understood by all stakeholders. Teams are thorough and flexible, but can be extremely overwhelming for some. We must keep this in mind and be intentional about the ways in which we organize and interact with one another to build competency and effective collaboration. 

 

References:

Griffin, L. (2021, January 25). How to enhance an existing Microsoft team using a Template: Blog. BindTuning. https://bindtuning.com/resources/blog/how-to-enhance-an-existing-microsoft-team-using-a-template 

Hellerich, K. (2020, December 3). Using Microsoft Teams in a Hybrid Classroom. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/using-microsoft-teams-hybrid-classroom 

Microsoft 365 & Security for Partners. Microsoft 365 for Partners. (n.d.). https://cloudpartners.transform.microsoft.com/teams-apps-remote-learning?tab=student 

Microsoft Teams. (n.d.). Apps and Workflow Automation: Microsoft Teams. Apps and Workflow Automation | Microsoft Teams. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/apps-and-workflows  

Microsoft Teams. (n.d.). First things to know about chat in Microsoft Teams. Office Support. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/first-things-to-know-about-chat-in-microsoft-teams-88ed0a06-6b59-43a3-8cf7-40c01f2f92f2 

Microsoft. (n.d.). Microsoft Teams: Online & Remote Classroom: Microsoft Education. Microsoft. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/education/products/teams?&ef_id=Cj0KCQjwse-DBhC7ARIsAI8YcWIqPFaVPRVOqN4690o4bwBPVBnRIj7I1quhHg9Nt4CLxbZyNKrs5FsaAjHeEALw_wcB%3AG%3As&s_kwcid=AL%2111608%213%21496816962231%21e%21%21g%21%21ms+teams+for+education%2112270472004%21123123765531&OCID=AID2100242_SEM_%3AG%3As&utm_source=google&gclid=Cj0KCQjwse-DBhC7ARIsAI8YcWIqPFaVPRVOqN4690o4bwBPVBnRIj7I1quhHg9Nt4CLxbZyNKrs5FsaAjHeEALw_wcB   

Microsoft Teams for Education. (n.d.). Best practices for school leaders creating teams and channels in Microsoft Teams for Education. Microsoft Support. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/topic/best-practices-for-school-leaders-creating-teams-and-channels-in-microsoft-teams-for-education-f3663ad9-a835-4971-9acb-6725a543c003  

Miller, M., & Clark, H. (2021, January 27). Microsoft Teams Education: How to manage it like a pro. Ditch That Textbook. https://ditchthattextbook.com/microsoft-teams/#tve-jump-171e1124ff4

Rogowski, M. (2020, August 25). Microsoft Teams Review for Teachers. Common Sense Education. https://www.commonsense.org/education/app/microsoft-teams.  

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Knowledge Constructor Most Recent Post

The Process of Knowledge Construction

Introduction 

Information literacy is the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, and use information effectively (Information Literacy, 2017). A now necessary skill because of how abundant and accessible information is. If we, as educators, are to address the rampant spread of misinformation, then we must support students’ development of information literacy. To avoid being duped, students must develop skillful research habits, but the landscape of research has changed over the last few decades. 

In 2012, Pew Research Center conducted a survey focusing on how teens do research. Pew concluded that the internet has changed the meaning of research (Purcell et al., 2020). Today’s digital environment has had a significant impact on student research habits. Both teachers and students reported that research equals “Googling”. The process has shifted. What was once a “relatively slow process of intellectual curiosity and discovery” is now a “fast-paced, short term exercise aimed at locating just enough information to complete an assignment” (Purcell et al., 2020). That isn’t to say there isn’t any value in locating information quickly, but without a focus on an information problem-solving process, students will struggle to develop the crucial skills and habits to successfully construct meaning for themselves and others. 

The general perception is that the internet and digital technologies have a “mostly positive” impact on students’ research habits. Although, teachers are still concerned about students’ expectations and use of “instant information”(Purcell et al., 2020). Deficits include using multiple sources effectively to support an argument, recognize bias, and the inability to judge the quality of information. The latter being a skill the majority of teachers in the Pew survey deemed “essential” for their students’ future success (Purcell et al., 2020).

So how can we support our students with the habits and skills to be successfully curious and combat the side effects of instant information? How can we empower students to be knowledge constructors who actively explore real-world issues to develop ideas and pursue answers? To address these large questions, I contend that an educator’s energy should be invested towards information skills instruction that focuses on the process and is supported by cooperative learning structures. 

ISTE 3 – Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

My Question – “How does an inquiry process model support critical information literacy skills? How can this process be supported by culturally responsive, cooperative learning structures?”

Solution

One process that could be used to teach information literacy and support inquiry is the Big6 and Super3. The Big6 is a student-centered research process that can help anyone solve problems or make decisions by using information. The process can be applied across subject areas and age levels. The goal is to teach the process, to have it be habitual, so that students can become systematic problem solvers who successfully curate, evaluate, and synthesize information.   Included in its name, the Big6 has 6 distinct stages that align to the ISTE Knowledge Constructor standards:

  • Task Definition – this first part involves the ability to recognize that information is needed, to define a problem, and to identify the types and amount of information needed. Some framing questions include: what is my current task?; what are some topics or questions I need to answer?; what information will I need? Here, a digital KWL thinking process may be helpful (Borrero Blog). Students could leverage digital communication tools to consult with experts locally or globally. Additionally, The Question Formulation Technique, created by the Right Question Institute, is a research-backed process to help students generate questions that could be used as a strategy to create questions based on a problem or another stimuli (What is the QFT?, 2020) .
  • Information Seeking Strategies – once an information problem has been identified, students brainstorm to consider all possible information sources and develop a plan to find the sources. This step is crucial in addressing some of the issues caused by “instant information” gathering as mentioned earlier. Some framing questions include: what are all the possible sources to check?; what are the best sources of information for this task? Students should explicitly evaluate pros/cons of each source and assess for relevance. There are plenty of mnemonic devices available to scaffold this, and the Big6 website offers CAARS and CLAAASS. Collaborating with your school’s librarian is also essential in identifying what source libraries are available to your students that don’t cost money. Lastly, allow students to plan a reasonable timeline for the information problem-solving tasks.
  • Location and Access – After students determine their priorities for sources, then they must locate and access those sources. Access is key and teachers should help students understand what credentials they need and where they can access the sources (at home, at school, or both). Some framing questions include: where can I find these sources? Where can I find the information in the source? Another critical step here is to support students with understanding how to effectively use appropriate search terms when they access online databases. Teachers in the Pew survey rated only 24% of students above average or excellent in this skill. Using the Four NETS for Better Searching website can be used to support this skill. We can also leverage digital tools to help students collect and organize information. Digital tools like Zotero and Wakelet are just a few of many examples. 
  • Use of Information – Students then engage with their information to extract relevant information. Some framing questions include: what information do I expect to find in this source?; what information from the source is useful? We can continue to use digital tools like Zotero and Wakelet to support this work. Another idea would be to create a Form template that students can copy and fill in to generate an excel sheet of their research. Sites like citationmachine or easybib can also be used to build references data based and then copied to a document. I can recall from my experience that this step would often happen at the end of the research process with my students. Too often would sources get lost or forgotten, so focus on building a habit of this as you go. 
  • Synthesis – learners organize information from their multiple sources in a way to construct knowledge, make meaning, and present. Framing questions include: how will I organize my information?; how should I present my information? It is valuable to make this thinking visible. Synthesizing thinking routines from ProjectZero’s toolkit can help scaffold the cognitive process. Digital whiteboards and sticky notes can help make that thinking visible. Not specifically called out, but this would be the appropriate stage for students to then use digital tools to present their understandings and arguments. Student agency can be increased by allowing for learners to self-select their medium/tool they want to construct their information with.
  • Evaluation – the final stage focuses on how well the final product meets the original task. This is a judgement phase examining not only the product(effectiveness), but more importantly the process(efficiency). Framing questions include: did I do what was required?; did I complete each of the Big6 stages efficiently? It is important to allow students the opportunity for self-assessment here. 

(Eisenberg et al., 2017)

thebig6.org

The Big6 is applicable for all age levels, but there is also the Super3 that condenses the Big6 into 3 major steps written for the youngest age groups.

thebig6.org

At first glance of the Big6 website and overview materials, the process suggests that it is mostly an individual undertaking by the student who receives feedback from the instructor. This isn’t true, but cooperative learning is an integral component to inquiry. We can then look at the tenants of the Community of Inquiry (COI) framework and fold that into the Big 6 process. Also referred to as the Practical Inquiry process, there are 3 overlapping presences that support inquiry and critical thinking especially in remote/distance learning. The authors of COI define it as “a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct personal meaning and confirm mutual understanding” (Bektashi, 2018). In addition, COI describes how learning occurs at the intersection of social, cognitive and teaching presence (Bektashi, 2018). I would recommend K-12 teachers consider the characteristics of these presences and how they fit into a more appropriate age-level, and student friendly, framework.

  1. Teacher Presence – design inquiry opportunities and organize classroom learning communities, facilitate discourse, and direct instruction.
  2. Social Presence – the ability for students identify with the community, communicate purposefully, and develop interpersonal relationships 
  3. Cognitive Presence – the way in which students construct and confirm meaning through activities, reflection, and discourse.

The social presence is the collective learning space that is indispensable to include in the inquiry process. A learner’s construction of knowledge and support is thoroughly elevated when an individual is able to comfortably engage in social and communal collaboration. Fostering successful social presences builds classroom community, provides beneficial peer-peer technology support (a time consuming and difficult challenge for teaching online), presents healthy discourse and multiple perspectives, and better supports critical thinking and cognitive development. This is especially helpful in the remote learning environment to support the social and emotional well-being of students who often feel isolated and depressed (Curtis, 2020). What might the social presences explicitly look like in the Big6? At each stage students would be moving “iteratively between private and shared words… between critical reflection and discourse” (Garrison et al., 2004).  In other words, one should plan to allow for a opportunity in small professional learning communities (PLCs) with peers to: set goals, share, discuss, provide feedback, and connect their learning. 

Conclusion

Much of my attention as a digital learning specialist is concentrated on coaching work with teachers to address instructional challenges. I support teachers in implementing strategies to address instructional challenges, but every classroom is different, and my role is then to help teachers adapt those strategies that fit their environment while choosing the right digital tools that are supported. Teachers can then create their own inquiry model to fit their classroom context and still preserve the necessary components of the Big6, Super3, and/or COI framework. A great example of this is the Quest model, created by Dr. David Wicks, that is better aligned to the Seattle Pacific University’s Digital Education Leadership program (Wicks, 2018).  While an inquiry model is helpful to teach the process and skills of ISTE Knowledge Constructor, equally important is fostering a social presence in your model. Furthermore, educators should continuously assess and teach the necessary research skills to help students be successful at each stage of the inquiry process. These lessons should be folded into the timeline allotted for your inquiry assignment. Jennifer Gonzalez, Digital Educator and author of the Cult of Pedagogy, offers an example of this as a curation lesson (Gonzalez, 2017). Finally, in order for students to grow in their research skills, the inquiry framework must be a continuous routine in your classroom year round. Practice can then transform to permanence. 

References

Bektashi, L. (2018, July 9). Community of Inquiry Framework in Online Learning: Use of Technology. Go to the cover page of Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2018. https://techandcurriculum.pressbooks.com/chapter/coi-and-online-learning/.  

Curtis, C. (2020, October 13). Isolated Students May Struggle to Stay Mentally Healthy. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/isolated-students-may-struggle-stay-mentally-healthy.  

Eisenberg, M., Johnson, D., & Berkowitz, B. (2017). Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT) Skills Curriculum Based on the Big6 Skills Approach to Information Problem-Solving. Library Media Connection, 24–27. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59a303936a49631dd51f9a7d/t/5b92e343b8a045c01cc38a21/1536353091802/LMC_Big6-ICT_Curriculum_LMC_MayJune2010.pdf.  

Garrison, R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2004, May 4). Critical Thinking, Cognitive Presence, and Computer Conferencing in Distance Education. http://cde.athabascau.ca/coi_site/documents/Garrison_Anderson_Archer_CogPres_Final.pdf.  

Gonzalez, J. (2020, June 13). To Boost Higher-Order Thinking, Try Curation. Cult of Pedagogy. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/curation/. 

Information literacy. (2017, August 7). Common Sense. https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship/information-literacy.  

Purcell, K., Rainie, L., Buchanan, J., Friedrich, L., Jacklin, A., Chen, C., & Zickuhr, K. (2020, May 30). How Teens Do Research in the Digital World. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2012/11/01/how-teens-do-research-in-the-digital-world/.  

What is the QFT? Right Question Institute. (2020, June 26). https://rightquestion.org/what-is-the-qft/.  

Wicks, D. (2018, May 21). The QUEST model for inquiry-based learning. David Wicks: Digital Education. https://davidwicks.org/iste-2-design-and-develop-digital-age-learning-experiences-and-assessments/quest-model-for-inquiry-based-learning/

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Digital Citizen Advocate Most Recent Post

The Screen Time Fallacy

Introduction:

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” “Observe due measure; moderation is best in all things.”

From the ancient Greeks to Oscar Wilde, this proverbial principle is timeless and endlessly applicable. However, in the case of screen time moderation, how we measure our engagement with screen technology may be more important than moderating our time.

In 2018, the Pew Research Center gathered technology experts, scholars and health specialists to consider how the rapid changes in digital life will impact peoples’ well-being. The largest percentage of respondents believe that our future digital life will be more helpful than harmful. Most believed changes in technology will improve the well-being and opportunity for people, but not without caution. Many experts also cited health, social, and security concerns (Anderson & Rainie, 2018). Like any medication, there’s always potential side effects. Screen time moderation could be considered the medicine in this metaphor, but the side effects of this issue have been overstated, as many experts are now shifting the narrative away from this oversimplified practice to a much more nuanced understanding.

In examining our current digital lives as it stands today, the current pandemic has intensified the debate around screen time particularly as it relates to education. Schools in remote or hybrid learning environments place a tremendous amount of stress on staff and student screen time. On average, teens spend 9 hours of screen time a day (Rideout, 2015). In Seattle, where I live and work, some families have been critical of the school district’s official schedule for remote learning and the amount of screen time it burdens students with. Some families devoutly subscribed to the screen time ‘shot clock’, limiting their student’s exposure to screens and encouraging “in-person interaction, time outdoors, and tactile activities” (Resmovits, 2020). These are necessary activities characteristic of a healthy lifestyle, but the early research and assumptions around screen time limits is outdated. A much more nuanced understanding of screen time has emerged, and as a result, a broader conversation around healthy digital habits and equity. 

Families who are more affluent and privileged typically have multiple devices at home with an ease of online access and greater access to resources and opportunity to create more in-person enrichment for their student. Students furthest from educational justice are less likely to have ease of online access and additional devices. If a student only has access to a mobile device at home, “they are less likely to go online to pursue an interest or engage in a creative endeavor” (Holland, 2019). Technology can provide multiple representations of content, accessibility, and opportunity for student-driven learning. When taken away, students of color can especially feel alienated and discouraged from learning because, for some, technology is viewed as an essential resource of utmost value (Resmovits, 2020). Thus, arguments for less screen time in school creates greater inequity. Health experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) have refocused their message around screen time. According to the APA, reasonable screen time limits should be considered, but it is much more important for families to develop healthy habits “such as sleep schedules and holding difficult conversations without interruption of scrolling through social media” (Resmovits, 2020).

This is where the understanding of screen time is shifting: healthy digital habits that focus on the quality of the experience and not necessarily the time. This lends itself to the question of where institutions and their educators fit in all of this. Students will access technology through a variety of mediums and for a variety of purposes. Technology use occurs both at school, at home, and every place in-between. We also know that access to technology is not equal, and how/when students experience technology is impacted by socioeconomics.  

My Question:

  • How can schools teach and support healthy digital habits that engages all stakeholders (educators, parents, students) especially as it concerns screen time? 

ISTE Standard for Coaches: 

  • 7b: Partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.

Solution:

Educational institutions need to support the shift in thinking away from screen time ‘shot clocks’ to empowering students, families, and educators in thinking dispositionally about the different ways of being, interacting, creating, and learning through screen-based technologies. 

Design considerations:

Technology use is interdisciplinary, and therefore the teaching of healthy digital habits should connect to every class and subject matter. Administrators can lean on committees and building leadership teams to plan curriculum and embed digital habits into their school’s mission and/or guiding foundational beliefs. Cultivate opportunities for students to learn and reflect upon the consequences of healthy and unhealthy digital lives. 

It is critical to consider context when engaging with screens. Not all screen time is created equal and varies by how it is used, the content that is engaged, and its fostering of relationships. Like a fitness journal, a digital habits journal could provide students a space to reflect upon how they are engaging with technology, connect it with their learning, and the effect that it is having on their health and wellness. This could also prove to be a valuable tool for discussions in 504/IEP meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and in building a culture of positive digital habits. There should be careful considerations for how students can share in their learning of healthy digital habits while protecting their choice and privacy for what they share. 

In addition, it is critical for staff to model and share in their own learning and struggles with how they engage in technology. This can also be powerful in building rapport and classroom community. Staff should also consider how they are asking students to engage with technology for school. I admit that this can be very challenging as each student engages with technology differently and has different digital habits. Predicting/planning for time may not be possible or worth it. Instead, educators need to consider if their lesson/assignment provides opportunity for students to engage with technology in ways that centers their interests and supports 21st century skills. As best as possible, limit rote and passive consumption of technology without personal purpose. There’s certainly still a place for designing learning opportunities that don’t require a screen, and there should be intention around cultivating that, but it may be better worth the effort to consider the context for how your students are engaging online for academics. 

Engage families:

It is imperative to invite families into this learning, but the purpose should not focus on telling parents what’s right from wrong. Any parent will tell you that telling someone how to parent their own kids isn’t going to be received too well. Instead, educators should manufacture opportunities that engage families into participating alongside their student(s) as they learn and reflect upon their digital habits and screen use. Encourage families to participate alongside with students as they reflect upon the how, where, and why they are using screen media. The goal here is spark conversation around screen technology use and how it is impacting personal and social health. Again, the point isn’t for educators to tell parents what is quality use, but to encourage them to move past the screen time fallacy and engage with their student(s) to think critically about their engagement with screen media to foster healthy digital habits (Blum-Ross & Livingstone, 2017). 

References

Anderson, J., & Rainie, L. (2018). The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/04/17/the-future-of-well-being-in-a-tech-saturated-world/.  

Blum-Ross, A., & Livingstone, S. (2017). Screen Time for Kids: Getting the Balance Right. https://clalliance.org/blog/screen-time-kids-getting-balance-right/.  

Holland, B. (2019). Changing the Discussion: From Screen Time to Digital Equity. https://www.gettingsmart.com/2019/11/changing-the-discussion-from-screen-time-to-digital-equity/. 

Resmovits, J. (2020). Seattle-area parents want rules about screen time, but experts say off-screen interactions matter more. https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/parents-want-rules-about-screen-time-pediatricians-say-off-screen-interactions-matter-more/.  

Rideout, V. (2015). The Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens. Retrieved from Common Sense Media website: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/research/census_researchre port.pdf 

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Digital Citizen Advocate Most Recent Post

Broader Conversations: Supporting Collaboration and Communication Beyond Your Class

Introduction:

Like the newest iPhone or model car, emerging apps in digital education are the shiny new toys constantly updating and difficult to keep up with. The EdTech market in particular continues to balloon evolving into a multi-billion dollar industry. Neil Selwyn, a social scientist who has written about digital technology and education for the last 25 years, points out that EdTech continues to be future-focused and fails to critically examine the present; EdTech scholars need not reinvent the wheel (Selwyn & Jandrić , 2020). As Selwyn claims, “the levels of venture capital investment are off-the-scale in comparison to other areas of education… [with] Covid-19 prompting the resurgence of a lot of dominant tech-fulled ‘corporate education reform’” (Selwyn & Jandric, 2020). My post is not intended to discourage educators from utilizing technology to increase the capacity of learning in their classroom. Instead, I think it would be useful for myself and others to take pause and act on Selwyn’s advice to critically examine the present rather than relying on the hype of future EdTech.

My research began with considering Selwyn’s and Peter Jandrić conversation about postdigital living during Covid-19. Selwyn ends his conversation with Jandrić with a hopeful imagination that the current pandemic crisis would produce “more communal, collective forms of digital engagement” (Selwyn & Jandrić , 2020). Inspired by this, I looked into online learning communities and the impact of student-student relationships had on engagement and achievement. My research focused on strategies to develop multicultural learning utilizing technology that included case studies published in educational journals. Additionally, it was important for me to consider some of the current challenges our students are currently experiencing in remote or hybrid learning environments. My own school district recently went 1:1 machines for students 6-12 however, many families report that their students continue to experience access issues. There is a tremendous struggle around access to synchronous learning times when adults and students are online at the same time; not to mention the physical space needed to focus along with a myriad of other considerations.  

ISTE Standard and Objective I aim to address:

  • ISTE 7a: Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities. 
  • Course objective 4. Model and promote diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness by using digital-age communication and collaboration tools to interact locally and globally with students, peers, parents, and the larger community.

Questions: 

  1. How can technology be leveraged to broaden students’ cultural understandings, global awareness, and inspire civic engagement?  
  2. What are some equity considerations for this kind of work? 

Solution: 

My research took me to pedagogical strategies that had long predated this pandemic. To address issues and learning around social justice, civic engagement, and multicultural learning, we need to provide and scaffold authentic opportunities for our students to have healthy discourse while being mindful of the technological challenges that many of our students face. E-Pals, the digital equivalent to pen-pals, and co-classroom project based learning can be effective in engaging students around authentic learning opportunities through social interaction. This interaction can be powerful at any scale whether it’s  occurring between schools within the same district or schools in different nations. An added benefit of E-Pals is that it offers great flexibility of access for our students. These digital interactions are not bound to particular time-slots and students have more freedom on when and how much they would like to interact. Consider the following digital tools and strategies to maximize the learning potential of these interactions:

Make learning authentic and relevant: 

Set parameters to challenge your students to engage in learning activities that tackle current real-world problems or issues. If possible, support students in identifying these topics themselves and choosing which one interests them the most. If collaboration is happening locally, consider political or social issues shared in both communities. By sharing their experiences and considering the experiences of others, we are supporting our students’ development of empathy and perspective. This can be powerful both on a local and global scale. 

Utilize digital tools to develop a flexible and safe learning community:

As much as possible, use your district monitored and supported tools already available. Collaborate with your district’s legal and technical support teams well in advance to secure proper permissions. Include families in these learning communities by intentionally designing assignments that require their input or participation. Consider too that students may choose to communicate with each other outside of district approved technology. It is important that you make families aware of this before their student opting in/out. When partnering with another teacher and class, sharing the same digital tools is a big advantage to consider. These are a few digital tools to consider using:

  • School Email – great for flexible and secure asynchronous communication. You may need to communicate with your school/district to adjust permissions
  • Flipgrid – great for both co-classroom projects or E-pals; this is a secure tool that can bring these relationships to life! Students can record and share their thinking and learning with peers. This is a more accessible, flexible, and reliable platform than say your school/districts communication platform. If you have a family who has opted their student out of this work, this is a great tool you can use to still foster an opportunity to hear others’ perspectives.
  • Communication platforms (Zoom, Teams, Skype) – Microsoft markets Skype in the Classroom to help connect educators all over the world with each other to partner their classrooms on projects. You school’s preferred communication platform can be used by both students and teachers to connect during synchronous or asynchronous times, but be conscious of technical challenges.  
  • ePals Global Community – an educational online community where you can find and partner with global classrooms. There are language translation tools built-in as well as opportunity for teachers to have direct oversight of the student-student communication. 

Incorporate cooperative and collective learning opportunities:

Design learning assignments that center collaboration between student pairs. Intentionally create space for students to share their individual input as well as reflect upon their partner’s ideas. Thinking routines and protocols can help scaffold this cooperation. When students are engaged in heterogenous and cooperative learning interactions, learning is more meaningful and authentic contributing to higher social and collaborative activity. It is equally important to deprivatize this learning so that it is shared with the rest of the classes. Students may have direct communication with one student, but they also need the opportunity to expand their readership to the entire class to broaden their global perspectives.This provides accountability and acts as a safeguard for students to access cooperative and collective learning if there are challenges with their E-pals.  

Provide scaffolding:

It is critical to support students in building relationships with the peers they are communicating with before critical examinations of their topics begin. Conversations should be genuine and authentic where students have some choice over what to communicate to their peers. Scaffolds are needed to ensure that communication is productive towards a collective or cooperative goal. Set clear expectations and model effective communication in different mediums (video calls, online discussions, email, etc.). By modeling communication with the other teacher, you are modeling transparency and effective communication. Building a healthy relationship will allow for richer dialogue and engagement from the students. Be sure to communicate regularly with your co-teacher to prepare contingencies for potential challenges that may arise. 

Lean on culturally responsive talking structures, protocols, and thinking routines to guide respectful and rich thinking and communication. Communication will most likely occur when you’re not around, so providing this scaffolding will help make the interactions among students more productive. If you have read any of my previous blog posts, I will continue to recommend the work of Zarretta Hammond, Project Zero, Making Thinking Visible but other resources like EduProtocols by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo and The Digital Learning Playbook by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie provide examples and ideas for how to scaffold these interactions. 

Publicize student learning 

A staple of PBL, authentic audiences to share student learning will increase engagement. Allow for some student choice in how students want to demonstrate their learning. Student work can be shared within their own learning community, but it can be much more meaningful if learning is tied to authentic issues with appropriate audiences. Consider local organizations, institutions, politicians, businesses, etc. There will be much more meaningful engagement if there is a purpose for the learning and interaction. 

 

References 

Neil Selwyn and Peter Jandrić, “Postdigital Living in the Age of Covid-19: Unsettling What We See as Possible,” Postdigital Science and Education (2020).

Fridell, M., & Lovelace, T. (2008). Create a digital world: Five steps to engage students in multicultural learning. The International Journal of Learning, 15(1). 

Lui, Ping (2002). Developing an e-pal partnership a school-based international activity. Childhood Education, 79(2), 81-87. https://doi.org/10.1080/00094056.2003.10522774 

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Digital Citizen Advocate Most Recent Post

Using Thinking Dispositions and Routines to Nurture Media Literacy

Intro: 

It’s October and I am really feeling spooky culture right now. As cringe-worthy as that was for me to type, it’s true. Around this time of the year I always watch one of my favorite zombie movies ever, Shaun of the Dead, and it had me reminiscing on my own faux zombie experience. In my 1st year of teaching, a colleague of mine attempted to deter me from trying to navigate the halls of our building during passing periods. He explained in jest that if I went out there that I may never come back. I couldn’t tell if this was some form of harmless joking with the rookie. There was already so much anxiety and chaos for me as a 1st year teacher that I had no choice but to fall willingly off his cliffhanger. I bite – “why shouldn’t I leave?” His response – “You may fall victim to the phone zombies. The cursed stampede of teenagers who wander aimlessly through the halls staring at their phones while, unbeknownst to you or them, you find yourself either trapped in a corner or boxed into traffic unable to take the off-ramp for the bathroom.” I’m the type of learner who must get burned before learning that fire is hot, so I naively explored the halls during passing time only to be preyed upon by the phone zombies. This experience illustrates how easy it is for our students, and adults too, to engage with online media almost mindlessly like a zombie. Consumption and sharing online media without critical examination can lead to consequences like being mislead or sharing misinformation. This rapid consumption of online media highlights the need to equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate online media critically and responsibly. 

My colleague, whom I have great respect for and who has had an extensive teaching career, has seen firsthand the drastic growth in consumption and use of online media over time. I, like these students, am a Digital Native who grew during this change in our environment speaking the digital languages of computers, video games, and the internet. My colleague, on the other hand, would be considered a Digital Immigrant (a highly skilled and “fit” one at that) – someone who was not born into the digital world, but has adopted most aspects of new technology (Prensky, 2001). These terms and distinguishing characteristics were made famous by Marc Prensky, an American author and speaker on education, in 2001.  

Today, our students’ engagement with online media is more connected and networked than ever before and beginning at much younger ages. Kids 5-8 spend roughly 3 hours on digital media whereas tweens 8-12 spend on average 6 and teens 13-18 increase to about 9 hours a day (Rideout, 2017). Prensky also argues that the terms Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants are becoming less relevant. As the 21st century rolls along, we all will have greater access to instant and ongoing collections of information at their fingertips. There is now a greater need to support digital wisdom (Prensky, 2013).  According to Prensky, “digital wisdom is a two-fold concept, referring both to wisdom arising from the use of digital technology to access cognitive power beyond our usual capacity and to wisdom in the use of technology to enhance our innate capabilities” (Prensky, 2013, p. 202). It is important to note that Prensky recognizes that there is still a need for people to define, discuss, compare, and evaluate, but digital wisdom uses technology to increase quality and sophistication in how we do so. Another way to consider digital wisdom is when we use both our minds and digital tools to enhance our analysis to inform decision making and understanding (Prensky, 2013).

This combination of critical thinking and utilization of technology really stuck with me as I contemplated ISTE Coaching standard 7c – Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions. I then arrived at a digital education problem with 2 related questions:

Problem:

  • The tone, context, and content of online media can mislead, intimidate, or dissuade

Questions: 

  1. What does digital wisdom look like when educators and students examine sources of online media?
  2. How can practicing thinking dispositions and routines support educators and students’ discernment of online media?

Solution:

Our world today is fast-paced filled with instant gratification and access to information. Because of this, it is easy to fall into the trap of action without thought. A student can easily search for a news article or website that includes a buzzword for their search, but pay little attention to the source information or underlying assumptions. To combat this, Educators should provide opportunity for students to discern online media for 4 dimensions of critical evaluation:

  1. Relevance – information’s level of importance to a particular reading purpose or explicitly stated need for that information
  2. Accuracy – the extent to which information contains factual and updated details that can be verified by consulting alternative and/or primary sources
  3. Bias/Perspective – the position or slant toward which an author shapes information
  4. Reliability – the information’s level of trustworthiness based on information about the author and the publishing body

(Coiro, 2017). 

But how do we as educators know if what we are teaching to students stick? Practice builds permanence. Educators can help their students practice these dimensions of critical evaluation through thinking dispositions. Dispositions can be defined as tendencies that guide thinking and behavior and shape how we use our knowledge and skills. Dispositions can help students slow down and develop sensitivity to recognize the nuance and dilemmas that are products of engaging with online media. Dispositions help teach habits of mind that encourage students to think critically and reflectively around digital citizenship. Project Zero, an initiative from Harvard’s Graduate of Education, has developed a framework of thinking routines that can help students practice dispositions and communicate their thinking in visible ways. These routines are designed to be short, memorable, and flexible across age and disciplines.

Students are challenged to reflect, explore perspectives, further investigate facts/credibility, and envision possible impacts. Not only do these dispositions incorporate the 4 dimensions of critical evaluation, their website categorizes these routines by subject and by disposition, idea, or competence. Here are just a few of many thinking routines to choose from:

(Project Zero) 

As coaches and educators, we want to utilize thinking dispositions and routines to shape a culture of digital citizenship.  The goal should not just be to introduce to students how to critically examine their sources and identify underlying assumptions, but to empower them to independently choose the right thinking tools to practice and apply to a range of sources and mediums (Ritchart,  Church, & Morrison, 2011). By doing so, we are supporting students’ development of becoming digitally wise and providing the antidote for digital zombies.

Final thought:

Digital wisdom can and must be taught, but it does not exclude digital immigrants. I would consider my colleague a very digitally wise person who carefully and critically utilizes technology to enhance thinking and understanding.  One key takeaway here for instructional coaching purposes is that teaching digital wisdom should approach all audiences in education from student, to family, to instructor. Coaches should challenge instructors to model and participate with their students’ evaluation of online media and underlying assumptions. Coaches should help instructors think about a continuum of learning for examining online media that models evaluation, provides opportunity for inquiry, and challenges students to transfer and apply thinking routines/dispositions to other interests relevant to their own lives. This process may not happen within a single school year or class, but it should be considered when administration or leadership teams design continuous learning goals.  In addition, push instructors to foster opportunities for empowering students to engage their learning with families. The benefit here is two-fold – students will continue to practice permanence of thinking routines useful for evaluating sources and increase the knowledge and capacity for families to support their students’ learning. 

Enrichment resources:

More research-based information about media use by tweens and teens can be found here

NY times – Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning about Fake News

Online Inquiry Tool – A digital scaffold to weigh evidence to support and refute claims

References

Coiro, J. (2017, August 29). Teaching Adolescents How to Evaluate the Quality of Online Informationhttps://www.edutopia.org/blog/evaluating-quality-of-online-info-julie-coiro. 

Harvard Graduate School of Education. Project Zero’s Thinking Routine Toolbox. Project Zero. https://pz.harvard.edu/thinking-routines#CoreThinkingRoutines

Marc Prensky, “From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom,” in From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin, 2013), 201-15 

Prensky, M. (2001, October). Digital natives, digital immigrants: A new way to look at ourselves and our kids. https://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf 

Rideout, V., & Robb, M. (2018). Social media,social life: Teens reveal their experiences. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/research/2018_cs_socialme diasociallife_fullreport-final-release_2_lowres.pdf  

Ritchart, R.,  Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible. Jossey-Bass. 

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Digital Citizen Advocate Most Recent Post

Constructing Ourselves Online

What does scuba diving, The Office, Ready Player One, and the infosphere have to do with online identity construction?

Introduction:

Last week I went scuba diving in the beautiful salt waters of the Northwest known as Puget Sound. The purpose of the diving was to earn my dry suit certification. See, a dry suit is wonderful for diving in the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest as opposed to the more familiar wet suit frequently used in tropical waters. Dry suits employ waterproof zippers (originally created by NASA) and seals at the neck and wrists to keep you dry. The suit traps air, and since air has a much lower heat capacity than water, the bubble of air trapped inside your dry suit acts as an insulator to keep you completely dry and cozy for a longer period of time as you dive deep into the cold, salty water of the Sound. Wet suits, on the other hand, are made of neoprene foam. This allows for water to seep into every nook and cranny of the suit where it gets trapped inside forming a liquid layer all around your body that allows the neoprene foam to insulate you, though the water does transfer heat away from your body.

Wet Suit Thermodynamics

Neil de Grasse Tyson might criticize my oversimplification of the thermodynamic science that describes the process of heat loss while diving, but I find it to be a great analogy to describe the technological revolution we have been experiencing since the mid-20th century.

Since the 1950s, we have been living in a global information society transformed by information and communications technology. Like the water that bypasses the neoprene and fills the gaps inside of the wet suit, we have been experiencing a similar process with information as it has seeped into our suit creating a new infosphere. It has transformed our understanding of reality and of ourselves while reshaping our environment. No longer is there a metaphorical dry suit that blocks the waters of online and offline. We now navigate the waters of our world with a wet suit where information acts like water. This interconnected informational environment, or infosphere, has seeped and blurred the lines in which we consider life online and offline. Luciano Floridi, a professor of philosophy and ethics of information at the University of Oxford, explains that we are currently experiencing a fourth revolution of science. “We are modifying our everyday perspective on the ultimate nature of reality, that is, our metaphysics, from a materialist one, in which physical objects and processes play a key role, to an informational one” (Floridi, 2010, p. 24).  This new experience and perspective of reality is modifying the ways in which we construct our identity. In order to reach some level of individualism, we self-brand and re-appropriate ourselves on various online platforms like blogs, social media pages, YouTube channels, and online multiplayer games that allow us to present ourselves uniquely to some degree (Floridi, 2010, p. 26). Consider the science-fiction novel Ready Player One that was published just a year after Floridi’s work in 2011. The main character experiences conflicts around identity and relationships with his avatar on a world-wide virtual reality game. His avatar online is unique and self-designed, and in some ways, completely different from his physical persona. In addition, the choices he makes impact both his avatar online in the game and in the physical world that are extremely interconnected in this dystopian setting. I’d love to hear Floridi’s thoughts about the novel because of how closely it depicts the experience and processes of the fourth revolution that we see today. 

Problem/Scenario:

Both Floridi claims and the example of Ready Player One boil to the surface the need for parents and educators to help students explore their identity and express themselves responsibly. Kids often develop their identities with access to digital media and they have a desire as learners to create and connect “on their own terms, with their own interests, and by their own design” (Tucker et al., 2017, p. 10). Consuming content, choosing avatars, sharing personal pictures and/or videos, and live streaming are just a few ways our students explore their identities and create a digital footprint of their online activities. In each of these ways, students construct a core identity, but they also develop digital personas for different mediums and audiences that will change alongside their identity overtime (De Kerckhove & Miranda de Almeida, 2013). Young people and adults manage the pressures of the infosphere by creating multiple accounts to manage their identity expressions to different audiences.

An example of the array of identity expressions are my own multiple Twitter accounts. One account is for my academic-professional self linked with the work I publish for this blog. The other is my personal-self account that includes a timeline and network of much broader interests. I carefully curate the content I share and engage with for both accounts considering the audiences who see it, though the data for both are most certainly linked and trace back to a representation of my core identity. If you’re a big Office fan like me, think back to how important Dwight’s Second Life avatar was to him and how he represented himself. Dwight expressed himself almost exactly how he does to his office colleagues except that he also lives out his fantasy of flying. Dwight’s Second Life Clip

These expressions and mediums come with implications we must help students consider. For example,“some teens can feel pressure to conform to idealized societal norms when they present themselves online” (James et al., 2019). The pressure to get likes or to appease the opinions of others can be damaging and isn’t an authentic expression of one’s self. In addition, our digital footprints influence strategies and actions that use collected data to influence settings and user experiences that often reduce our identities into categories that hinder our ability to self-management our identity. Controlled and constructed identities from data collection fails to recognize our multiplicity and impacts the ways we can engage online (De Kerckhove & Miranda de Almeida, 2013). That controlled data can also have long-term consequences affecting a student’s opportunity in the future. Inappropriate engagement with digital media when your young can be stored and resurfaced to be held against you even though you made a youthful mistake. There are plenty of examples of this in the college admissions and hiring process. Even Sir Francis Bacon’s ideas on the Idols of the Market Place still ring true if applied to our own discourse in online markets of digital media. “Speech is the means of association… but words are applied according to common understanding… Indeed, words plainly do violence to the understanding and throw everything into confusion” (Bacon, 1620). We must be careful and considerate for how our online selves engage and are presented to a wide range of audiences as it can lead to great controversy. In short, it is important for students to understand the consequences of their consumption and engagement in the informational space which can be both positive and negative. 

Question:

Considering these implications from the perspective of a digital educator, I wondered: How do we, as educators and institutions, help students to responsibly express themselves and explore their identity as digital citizens? 

ISTE Standard for Coaches:

Conveniently, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has created a framework of standards for educational leaders to consider when coaching teachers and students. Standard 7, Digital Citizen Advocate, presents considerations and strategies related to identity construction. The intention is for coaches to model digital citizenship and support educators and students in recognizing the responsibilities and opportunities inherent in living in a digital world. Not only do these standards help us support and prepare students through their identity exploration with technology, they also help model for educators and students how to responsibly engage with technology in the digital world which is very much part of the contemporary classroom learning environment. Two substandards in particular, 7b and 7d, directly address the heart of my inquiry: 

7b: Partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.

This standard focuses on creating values for inclusive online interactions. This is important because students express themselves through digital media and engage with a wider audience. That engagement online with others also impacts how they view themselves and the world around them. It is important for them to consider different perspectives and experiences of others. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy balance of their technology is also extremely important for healthy identity development. Too much screen time can cause a plethora of physical and social-emotional issues. 

7d: Empower educators, leaders and students to make informed decisions to protect their personal data and curate the digital profile they intend to reflect

Your digital profile is how you represent yourself in online based activities. This can have both short-term and long-term consequences. Our identity evolves over time and our digital footprint may not accurately represent who we are or want to be. This standard focuses on footprint awareness and understanding how our information is collected and shared. 

An offered solution with accompanying resources:

In considering the implications and consequences of constructing online identity and personas, it is imperative that as educators we shift and present views of technology away from focusing on tools and practices within technological systems. Instead, we must provide students the space to examine their online selves and interaction with technology as part of a larger information ecology which is a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a local environment. Students need opportunity to “critically engage with technology and media in a manner that notices their presence and effects” to better develop themselves appropriately and productively as digital citizens (Campbell & Garner, 2016). The focus is then on the relationships between entities within a technological system and the human activities that are served by technology. Issues that deal with people, relationships, social justice, and sustainability presents technology with language of environmental concern and awareness that challenge students to consider their role in a larger digital ecosystem (Campbell & Garner, 2016).

After conducting research to learn more about my question, I discovered two resources that I find extremely valuable in addressing my question and the related ISTE standards of 7b and 7d. The first is a widely popular website known as Common Sense Education that is dedicated to research, insights, and curriculum for K-12 digital citizenship. I love this website because it offers both families and educators resources for teaching and learning digital citizenship. They also have lessons organized by the subtopics of digital citizenship and grade level. These lessons feature activities that invite students to consider personal, moral and ethical issues associated with online identities. Common Sense Education also uses the Rings of Responsibility framework that promotes consideration of our personal well-being alongside broader moral, ethical, and civic considerations. This directly supports building awareness about our roles within the informational ecological system. Students also consider the benefits and risks of sharing and explore how their digital expressions affect their sense of self and relationships (James et al., 2019). Considering the Triple E Framework for measuring the degree to which the technology is helping students meet the learning goals:

  • Extend Learning:
      • Many of the lessons include a family component and/or an inquiry option for students to discuss their learning with families and/or conduct their own research
      • The lesson topics and resources are directly applicable to their everyday life experiences and offer agency in how they demonstrate or engage with their learning
      • The lessons are organized in in a progressive sequential order that is appropriate for each grade level. 
  • Enhance Learning: 
      • The resource challenges students to think critically and deeply about the implications of their technology use 
      • The resource follows a handful of research backed scaffolds to increase the capacity of student learning including 5 Core Dispositions and thinking routines
      • Common Sense Media offers a variety of authentic activities that provide flexibility for how students demonstrate their learning
  • Engage Learning:
    • Lessons are focused on 1 particular topic of digital citizenship that is framed into a question
    • Lessons allow for personalization and choice 
    • In most, but not all lessons, there is an inquiry piece of Digital Dilemmas considered to promote active social learning and engagement with their peers.

In addition to Common Sense Education, I feel it is important to couple their rich frameworks and pedagogical strategies with culturally responsive teaching methods in order to build student agency, voice, and understanding a diversity of perspectives. Classrooms, whether they be remote, hybrid, or full-time in-person learning, need to be designed around conversations that are culturally responsive and resemble ways students engage in discourse outside of school or at home. Providing a variety of social and academic talk structures assists in promoting more effective sociocultural natures of learning that builds community and student agency. When students can narrate their lives, share their experience, and process their thinking through discourse, they can better define the people they see themselves becoming (Hammond, 2015). The talk and task structures identified in Zaretta Hammonds book, Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain, should be applied to our digital learning environments to support responsible and respectful online interactions with their peers. These strategies can help build empathy and encourage students to engage with digital media in a positive manner. They also pair really well with secondary lessons offered by Common Sense Education that incorporate dispositions that guide thinking and behavior. Just another resource that helps us shift our thinking about our role within a informational ecological system. This book is available as an e-book copy for your digital convenience. 

You can learn more about Zaretta Hammond’s work through the following video as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME8KjqyqthM 

Research and insights into Common Sense Education can be found here and the lessons for digital citizenship can be found here

References

Heidi A. Campbell and Stephen Garner, “Theology of Technology 101,” Networked Theology: Negotiating Faith in a Digital Culture (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2016), 19-37

De Kerckhove, D., & Miranda de Almeida, C. (2013). What is a digital persona?, Technoetic Arts, 11(1). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263726825_What_is_a_digital_persona 

James, C., Weinstein, E., & Mendoza, K. (2019). Teaching digital citizens in today’s world: Research and insights behind the Common Sense K–12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.

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