In search of a flattened taxonomy for tech integration

When I PD (yes, as a verb), I look for things that will push me out of my comfort zone: new venues, new people and new ideas. I asked to present at the OSSTF Educational Technology conference this week as it was described as trying to reach teachers who were reluctant to use technology in their classrooms. I hoped to meet people who didn’t even own cellphones, and I did! I had the dreaded last spot of the day to present in.  I say ‘dreaded’ because I am deadly in the last spot.  By the time the last spot rolls around I have everyone else’s presentations in my head, I’m second guessing what I have to say and, let’s face it, I’m tired.  In this case though, I was also unsure of my audience.  How do you get reluctant people to buy in to your message?  I decided to present the idea of How to become Comfortable with being Uncomfortable.

Earlier in the day, I participated in a session run by Amanda Anderson as she talked about classroom technology that she uses to help her ELL students to accelerate their language learning.  Her fifth slide was this one:

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 9.06.10 PM

Amanda stopped me thinking about anything else for the rest of the week with her statement that we need to stop aiming to integrate technology in learning and instead created blended learning situations. I really like Amanda’s definition, and was even more appreciative when I saw her beautiful reference to this article as a blended learning starting point. Later the same day, presenting finally, I felt the earth shift as one of the godfathers of educational technology in Ontario rolled his eyes when I mentioned the SAMR model to my audience of reluctant technology users.  I’ve relied on both TPACK and SAMR for years now to explain that models of technology use are real but imperfect because we still haven’t achieved those elusive 21st century competencies (now to be re-branded as Global Competencies in Ontario).  I’m not married to the idea of SAMR but I refer to it as a rubric for improving the task in which technology is used.  I am particularly fond of the S in SAMR as I try to only resort to Substitution when the wifi goes down.

Why is everything in education either a ladder, a pyramid or a target?  Do we not know any other 2-D shapes? I see the complexity of the issue of integrating technology effectively into learning as more of a sphere.  The Canadian School Libraries Association said it really well in its 2014 document Leading Learning: “The learning commons promotes personalization, inquiry, and the integration of technology through the implementation of innovative curricular design and assessment.”  The 3D-ness of the sphere allows us to reiterate the process over and over again rather than to climb a ladder or hit a target or move up the levels of a pyramid.  In my job as teacher-librarian, I maintain and advocate for the use of technology for improved collaboration, communication and creativity inside the building, and into the community.  Often then I am using the C’s as another handy way to encourage the use of technology in schools.

My favourite abbreviated model though actually comes from the TV Show Silicon Valley: SOMOLO.  This is how I ended my presentation.  If we can make learning with technology more social (C for collaboration and Vygotzky would be proud); mobile (using the tech in student pockets as well as the board-approved device) and local (authentic, relevant and real in the user’s life), then we’re making huge gains.  With SOMOLO, I think our pedagogy and integration of technology will improve, perhaps to even become seamlessly blended in learning.

Woefully, I think about 100 people of the 150 had left by the time the last spot arrived, and my audience sat all the way at the back of a cavernous room.  Thank goodness for the wireless mouse. Looking back at that moment, I think the uncomfortable-ness I was experiencing, was just what I needed to push me to put my thoughts down here.

PS: In revisiting this idea with @dougpete, he gave me a whack of articles which (like any good teacher-librarian) I have curated into a Flipboard all about questioning the purpose of SAMR for your use:

View my Flipboard Magazine.

CanConnectEd2015: Transliteracy and the teacher-librarian

This week I’ve been attending the Connect conference in Niagara Falls for the first time and as a representative of the Ontario School Library Association Council.  It also gives me a chance to speak about my M.Ed. capping paper on how teacher-librarians are in the ideal position to facilitate transliteracy. I mean, we really do have a very unique perspective….and we are generally non-threatening (unless I’m tired and hungry).  If you don’t have a teacher-librarian in your school, I hope you have someone who is working tirelessly to integrate pedagogy with cross-curricular happenings.

In many ways I need to percolate ideas, and since I wrote that paper I’ve been trying to walk the walk.  So, in my humble opinion, the best of the presentation is in the last few slides where I get to talk about pushing the boundaries of literacy in multiple modes with a) the help of some awesome governing documents by Canadian school library experts and b) some strategies I’ve tried and had some success with this year.  The entire logic thread though is built on the premise that we (as educators in the year 2015) are redefining text and reading.  If you can get your mind around that switch, then you’re ready for more! (insert trumpet flourish)

Here is the presentation in full:

It is set to flip through the slides every 5 seconds so you might not get the opportunity to see the full Miwa Matrayek video at the beginning.  Here is the link to that video in full:

Is it possible to be proactive when technology and the use of social media sites changes so quickly?

A colleague of mine asked me this question today.  Here’s my reply:

I think it is possible to be proactive with technology and social media, because I think the growth of social networking is plateauing.  In preparation for our group assignment on games, I have come across this business researcher, Seth Priebatsch, who says:

For those of you still trying to wrap your head around the meteoric rise of social networking over the past decade, this post might hurt a little bit. Because just as you and most of the world were getting a handle on it, the decade of social abruptly ended.

I don’t mean that we will stop using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to share with our friends, colleagues and families. In fact, quite the opposite is true, our combined usage of these social networks will continue to increase. Rather, the decade of constructing the social layer is complete. The frameworks that we’ll use to share socially are built, defined and controlled. Construction on the social layer ended with the launch of Facebook’s Open Graph protocols over the last several months. All the interesting social stuff that will occur over the next decade (and there’ll be lots, I’m sure), will exist within this predefined framework built and controlled by Facebook. In short, the decade of social is over.

What’s taking its place? The decade of games.

I really believe that we are at the end of a cultural infancy with the onset of social networks and that this is as bad as it’s going to get.  Anyone anywhere can take a picture of anything with a miniscule camera and have it on the internet in nanoseconds.  “Privacy is dead.  How can it possibly get any worse?”  I heard CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi say those exact words at our library conference a couple of years ago.  Here’s one of his podcasts on the topic: http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2012/04/27/is-facebook-watching-you/

Now is our time as parents and educators to take a stand against inappropriate behaviour and to demand that the privacy of each person remains with that person.  If I ask you not to take a picture, you stop. (In my case, I don’t allow any pictures of my double-chin or with a drink in my hand to be posted.)  If I ask you to remove a picture, you stop.  At the same time, we know that this instant fame is also affecting behaviour in a positive way.  Remember the Vancouver riots and the consequences for these young people?

http://youtu.be/4VzOUKODdZ4

With the plateauing of social networks, our school boards, our unions, and the law need to  negotiate some very strict cultural and legal guidelines to protect us. To not take this crucial step, leaves us, as I said earlier, unprepared for the consequences of social networking.

It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens by danah boyd

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked TeensIt’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Throughout danah boyd’s “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens”, I’m very satisfied with the level of sophistication of boyd’s research and unbiased point of view in her writing.  Her tone is academic, professional and at the same time, approachable.  The three areas that most concerned me during my reading are boyd’s research on the digital divide, online teen behaviour of sexual exploration and her plea for the redefinition of crimes associated with online bullying.

I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with Marc Prensky’s phrase “digital natives” (2005/06) and I am reassured by boyd’s acknowledgement of her own awareness and skepticism of this blanket term.  boyd (2014) talks of social networking as a type of literacy and warns that “It is dangerous to assume that youth are automatically informed.  It is also naive to assume that so-called digital immigrants have nothing to offer.” (p. 177).  boyd also goes on to say that since teens are in many cases left to fend for themselves in networked environments, that their exposure to becoming fully literate depends on many factors.  She references Henry Jenkins and his thoughts on the subject:

Yet, talk of “digital natives” may also mask the different degrees access to and comfort with emerging technologies experienced by different youth. Talk of digital natives may make it harder for us to pay attention to the digital divide in terms of who has access to different technical platforms and the participation gap in terms of who has access to certain skills and competencies or for that matter, certain cultural experiences and social identities” (2007).

This paragraph amplifies my own worries that this simple term has excused the education system’s lack of action in lessening the digital divide.  I’m certain that we still promote the use of technology in the classroom as a tool of engagement, rather than seeing becoming proficient with technology as a fundamental requirement for graduation.

In the Ontario curriculum, at least, there is no single mandatory place where students are given a number of digital strategies for studying success, although we know there are consistent issues in any student’s level of preparedness.  Again, in Ontario, technology is not a mandatory part of the elementary curriculum and so students come to secondary with an almost insurmountable range of disparities in their digital backgrounds based on the interest and abilities of their elementary teachers and their home environments with varying degrees of hardware support and exposure.  Along the same lines of boyd’s concerns, Jenkins (2007) goes on to say:

Talking about digital natives also tends to make these changes all about digital media rather than encouraging us to think about the full range of media platforms which shape the world around us or for that matter, the complex set of relationships between old and new media that characterize convergence culture.

This sentence has been the basis of my learning in the TLDL program at the U of A, where I now understand that the crux of my position is to raise the bar for transliteracy for both staff and students. (King, 2014)

A large part of the digital divide that I know teachers are having trouble improving is the use of networked communities to help students.  In many ways administration fears of privacy and legalities have closed the networks for their possible misuses, meanwhile eliminating all possible positive ones.  Although I have concerns for all of our students, I have a particular worry about the LGBTQ population that are getting their information from unreliable sources when they desperately need support as they renegotiate social spaces.  The anecdotes from boyd’s research reassured me that LGBTQ teens are finding each other online and developing supportive communities.  However, boyd warns that “They are grappling with battles that adults face, but they are doing so while under constant surveillance and without a firm grasp of who they are.  In short, they’re navigating one heck of a cultural labyrinth” (p. 53).  I wish that the education system could find or create places, possibly in tandem with social support structures, where teens could create networks to reliable information.  I wish there was a way we could better support this.  I’m not sure what the answer is.

One of boyd’s research topics that particularly affected me is cyberbullying and the complexities in these cases.  Within boyd’s Chapter 5 on Bullying, she references the journalistic research work of Emily Bazelon who covered the case of Phoebe Prince, a teen victim of suicide and reportedly, cyber-bullying.  After linking to Bazelon’s extensive reporting on this case, I found that the law is responding with a variety of consequences to cyber-bullying and that because of the after-school, non-geographic locale of this bullying, that school boards have very little to offer to victims and bullies.  One of her final reports on the case revealed that in the case of Phoebe Prince, none of her aggressors were met with serious consequences.  Bazelon (2011) says:

After more than a year of covering this case, it’s hard for me to square that duty with the way these cases unfolded. “If you bully someone to death, that’s murder,” explained Joseph Kennedy, a criminal law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when I called him earlier this week. “But if you bully someone, and then they kill themselves, and that’s not something you anticipated, that’s not a crime.”

The digital divide is not just between economic classes and about developing transliteracy skills.  Boyd has revealed that the digital divide also includes how living and working as educators in this era of social networking we are not prepared for the consequences of these networks; and we are currently unable to model how to use social networks effectively.

References

Bazelon, E. (2011, May 25). It’s Over: None of the six teens charged in connection with the suicide of Phoebe Prince will go to jail. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/life/bulle/2011/05/its_over.html

boyd, D. (2014). It’s Complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven, MA: Yale University Press.

Jenkins, H. (2007, December 5). Reconsidering digital immigrants… [Blog post]. Retrieved from Confessions of an Aca-Fan website: http://henryjenkins.org/2007/12/reconsidering_digital_immigran.html

King, A. (2014, April 13). Transliteracy and the teacher-librarian [Blog post]. Retrieved from Threadbare Beauty website: https://threadbarebeauty.com/2014/04/13/transliteracy-and-the-teacher-librarian/

Prensky, M. (2005/2006). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4).

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Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

I don’t think of myself as a gamer.  I have been known to play lots of those Flash-based Facebook games with my Candy Crush Saga friends, and occasionally a great puzzle-based novella will come along like Gabriel Knight 2,  Syberia or Ripper that I devour, but generally I didn’t think they were a big part of my life.  After reading just part 1, Why Games Make Us Happy, of McGonigal’s book, I started feeling that I could admit that I play Plants vs. Zombies and Game of Thrones Ascent almost every day!  Now that I’ve read McGonigal’s book completely, I know that it’s cool to be a gamer and I really want to believe that a game designer will win a Nobel Prize someday.

 

In Part II Reinventing Reality, McGonigal really opens up on the topic of how games can change our education system for the better.  I’m really intrigued with the idea of the game-based education being offered by Quest to Learn (p. 128). A very real challenge of my current position is to develop my staff’s comfort and skills with 21st century learning which largely focuses on digital fluency.  However, there are constantly battles between our current system and the growing desire from staff to collaborate and teach creatively.  The idea of redesigning the system from the ground up, the way that Quest to Learn has, is very appealing.  In hindsight, I know that the mindset of the administration and the staff has often been what held back change for the better design of our school and I wonder what kind of experiential learning the staff needs to help them grow in this direction.  We have a local company called Eagles Flight which worked with our department heads for one morning last January during exams, and essentially we played a quest game where we needed to get from one side of a desert to the other maximizing our resources, within a time limit and never having all the information we needed to play.  It was really fun!  Was it transformational?  No but it helped us to bond and gave us lots of fuel for good discussion for the rest of the day.

 

Having spent 5 years as a teacher-librarian now, one of the aspects of my job that I like best is how it gives me space to see the school as a whole system, and I can see the problem of the department silos.  At the risk of overglorifying the situation, I’m omniscient in a way that even the administration isn’t.  I’ve always enjoyed this role in my gaming experience as well, and was a big fan of many of the games McGonigal mentions in Part III, Chapter 14: Saving the Real World Together.  Besides Will Wright’s Sim City and The Sims, I was fascinated with the idea of Peter Molyneux’s game Black & White in which you need to make decisions for villagers based on moral quandaries. After reading McGonigal’s praise of the game, I dug out our old copy of Will Wright’s Spore and played through 4 levels with new appreciation for its design and trying to imagine what it would be really like to drop into the Ukraine, for example, and try to sort things out a bit. Maybe that’s the reason why I still like reality tv shows.  There’s a new one coming out this week called The Audience where 50 people make a life-changing decision for someone.  This experimentation in McGonigal’s “Saving the Real World Together” of taking a long view, practicing ecosystems thinking, and pilot experimentation (p. 297-98) are exactly the tools that I think we need our graduates to have exposure to.  One of the first computer games I remember loving is Lemonade Stand, where I simulated making a lemonade stand profitable based on fluctuating weather predictions and costs of lemon and sugar.  If I could remake school today, I’d start by making every single assignment follow McGonigal’s Saving the Real World criteria.  I might not be able to reconstruct my school into a Quest to Learn environment, but I can advocate for these 3 aspects in teaching design and that gives me hope that my influence will help save the world.  I suppose I need to see this through for the epic win.

Overall, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World is a game-changer (excuse the pun).  I’ve started a Twitter List called Epic Winners that includes all sorts of people who are using games for positive change and deeper meaning inside schools and beyond.  It even lead me to find a library game that I’d like to try out called (what else?) Librarygame.   This isn’t the first time I’ve thought “I wish I could give a little surprise to a student who signs out the same book twice, or has signed out 10 books this year, or returns everything on time”.  Even if it was just a virtual badge to add to their student e-portfolio, I think they would appreciate it.  I know I would.

References

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

 

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Storify: CaneLearn summit for K-12 Online & Blended Learning

Literacy is NOT Enough by Lee Crockett, Ian Jukes and Andrew Churches

Literacy Is NOT Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age (The 21st Century Fluency Series)Literacy Is NOT Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age by Lee Crockett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Andrew Churches has been one of my professional development gurus ever since he developed the Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy https://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloo… . This is my first encounter with the other two authors and I think they’ve….watered down the richness of the content with professional development activities. I would have preferred more of the ‘how’ are we going to move up the taxonomy with technology implementation than more ‘why’. I’m already convinced. You were preaching to the choir.

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The quest for self-selection

The truth is that the technology within my library is not self-selected.  We have 44 desktops, 7 netbooks and these have all been purchased by the board.  The software on the desktops is controlled by the board as well.  So while I can tell people my opinion on hardware and software choices for students, I don’t have any purchasing power to make these wishes come true. Currently, teachers sign out the use of these dinosaur-like devices in a paper book that is housed inside the library, and too often I have nothing to do with their class when they’re using these devices.  I wrestle with these slights on my professional achievement every moment of every working day.  I liberate myself away from the muck inside the library computer lab as often as possible by teaching in other people’s functional labs elsewhere in the school.

I could wallow in the misery of my #firstworldproblems.  Instead, I’d like to focus on what the future of my library should like. My husband Tim is the head of technology at his school and my earliest influencer in selecting tech.  He and I have been working on our vision of technology in education (his forte) and how to implement digital fluency in staff and students (my forte).  This year Tim presented at the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario conference this Prezi http://prezi.com/u26blkzyzodh/byod-the-minilab-digital-mastery/.  We both firmly believe that no one device or even one method for mastering digital fluency is going to work for all learners.  Instead he proposes a graduated program moving these learners from computer labs full of desktops with software that has been decided for them to portable mini-labs full of mobile devices to BYOD.  I believe that the library is the key component to making this system work.  Here’s how it would work if I could:

http://youtu.be/K3R9d0skIAM

Dresang (2008) refers to the change we’re seeing optimistically calling it an “era of synergy of digital and print media” (p. 301).   Henry Jenkins (2006) describes this as a “convergence culture”.  I see this era as a kind of digital infancy where we are renegotiating the culture of education as we move from print text to multimedia texts; from consumers to creators.

My frustration generally stems from the change not happening fast enough.  I’m not alone in my angst.  Wendy Stephens (2012) says that “Any school library considering the electronic transition will have to make some decisions about the purpose of connecting students with a particular text” (p. 43).  Call me cautious, but I won’t buy into an e-reader system (with my diminishing budget) because I don’t have access to the digital content that would best suit my learners.  Canadian educational publishers aren’t making e-texts that are robust enough to serve the dynamic change needed in classrooms today.  Hardware manufacturers aren’t making devices that are robust enough for the constant manipulation of their flimsy bits.  There seem to be ridiculous arguments about proprietary work and an outsourcing of all manufacturing of hardware that makes it prohibitively overpriced and short-lived.

Until education can drive the needs of hardware, software and each of these can adapt to the user’s needs, then I won’t be satisfied.  Until reading is a completely immersive experience, one that equals the excitement that a gamer feels while socializing in a virtual world, whether that be fantastical, historical or futuristic, I won’t be satisfied.  Until learning in a digital world is driven by the user, adapted to the reader and access to current Canadian content is the priority, I won’t buy in.  Until my library can be both reliable and flexible, I will continue to search for better solutions.  The quest for this satisfaction is what gets me up in the morning.

References

Dresang, E. T. (2008). Radical change revisited: Dynamic digital age books for youth.Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 8(3).

Jenkins, H. (2006).  “Welcome to Convergence Culture.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. http://henryjenkins.org/2006/06/welcome_to_convergence_culture.html

King, T. (2012).  “BYOD, the minilab & digital mastery.” http://prezi.com/u26blkzyzodh/byod-the-minilab-digital-mastery/

Stephens, W.S. (January/February 2012). “Deploying ereaders without buying ebooks.” Knowledge Quest 40, 3. 40-43.

Find of the week

Mashapedia is an aggregator combined with a search engine.

Mashpedia is an online encyclopedia comprised of “LiveDocs”, which are dynamic web documents displaying blocks of content related to the given topic, retrieved from multiple sources across the Internet in real-time.

If a user types in a concept, it goes to the news, YouTube, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Qwiki and then compiles everything on one easy to read page.

Mashpedia is an online encyclopedia comprised of “LiveDocs”, which are dynamic web documents displaying blocks of content related to the given topic, retrieved from multiple sources across the Internet in real-time.
I used it immediately this week with really really current topics.  The grade 12 Biology students came in for help trying to find a species of plant or animal that was endangered because of its limited gene pool.  We typed “endangered gene pool” into Mashapedia and we were lead to a blog by  a researcher identifying some insects that were endangered for this very reason.
Here’s a screenshot from a search on abstract expressionism (one of MY favourites):