Bringing the AUP Alive: Course 2 Final Project

For this project, I collaborated with fellow Grade 5 teacher, Stacie Melhorn.

Context

The Acceptable Use Policy at ISB for the Elementary School has been in place for 3 years. At the beginning of each school year, students take home a copy of this policy where they are supposed to read and then sign the name in agreement. Then they return the signed agreement to class where the teacher promptly files it away. Despite a nearly 100% return of AUP agreements, ALL areas of the AUP have been breached this school year. Here are some examples documented by our Technology Learning Coach, Chrissy Hellyer:

  • Students “posing” as other students (not accessing another’s account – but writing another’s name & using another’s blog URL & email address to “pose” as that student) (breach of 1.2)
  • Logging in as someone else (gained access to someone’s password & login) (breach of 1.2)
  • Use of copyright images all over the place (breach of 3.1)
  • Sending emails without a purpose (ie: hi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and nothing else) (breach of 4.8)
  • Using instant messaging,chat without teacher permission or misuse of chat and or instant message (breach of 4.7)
  • Deleting others’ work (files off the laptop or work off a gdoc) (breach of 1.1)
  • Changing the settings of laptops without teacher permission (breach of 2.2, 2.3)
  • We have the idea that the AUP needs to become more of a “living document” that is not filed away, but instead easily accessed and visible by teachers, parents, and students. We feel that students need to be more actively demonstrating their understanding of the document and how it connects to practicing good digital citizenship.

Despite the fact that the Grade 4-5 AUP was reworded a few years ago to kid-friendly language, we felt the need to further simplify the language in order for kids to put the AUP on their blog as a reference tool.

Vision

  • Students will add our simplified AUP page to their blog.
  • Kids will create a video for each of the four “Big Ideas” (or levels) of the AUP. Students can choose to highlight important aspects of a level or concentrate on one scenario. Students can also create a video that addresses a problem they currently see occurring at school or at home.
  • Three or four students will be in an AUP group with the roles of: Script writing, camera, acting, producing/editing. Roles should change with each video to give kids a broad experience.
  • After successfully completing a video, students will present to an audience (peers, younger grade, etc). Videos are added to our class blog and the creators’ individual blogs, then banked on an ISB Digital Citizenship site.
  • Students earn a widget for each video presented. The idea is that these widgets will be added to a sidebar of the students’ blogs, which will indicate a distinguished level of AUP expertise.

There has been some discussion at ISB about where the responsibility for teaching digital citizenship lies. While most would agree that much will fall to the classroom teachers in the Elementary School, there is some uncertainty about HOW and WHEN digital citizenship lessons take place. It is our belief that these lessons should be embedded in the curriculum. It should be noted that our project fills ALL of our standards and benchmarks in Grade 5 for “Speaking and Listening”, while also hitting many writing S and B’s as well. Of course, the TAIL standards will be addressed with our activities as well. We feel that our plan provides an opportunity for integration.

It is our thoughts that this plan for Grade 5 will link to a “Bringing the AUP Alive” continuum across the grade levels.

Here is our simplified AUP:

And here is our UBD Planner:

Reflection

Since the reality has definitely hit that this will be a huge part of my job next year as Technology and Learning Coach, it has taken everything that I do for this course to a new level. Working with Stacie was an empowering experience, because our thinking evolved so many times throughout, and we truly were able to “piggy-back” on each others thoughts and ideas. I cannot wait until next year when that type of collaboration and will be a part of my regular job description, and not just for course work. I have so much to learn as I embark on this journey, but it is one that I am ready and eager to take, particularly when I know I will have the opportunity to learn and collaborate with so many incredible colleagues. Thank you Stacie!

Linking in the Deep

“The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”
-Eric Schmidt

This week, it was claimed that students no longer need to learn facts, because they have their smart phones. I still insist that my Grade 5 students learn their multiplication tables, but yet… My friend got stuck on a word game she was playing, and just googled 6-letter-words-with-a-u-in-the-4th-spot. A student wanted to know the date of Martin Luther King’s famous speech, and just googled the year. Information is at our fingertips – as long as we have a signal! Will people with random collection of facts and knowledge (the type that makes my Dad so good at Trivial Pursuit!) just cease to exist? Some argue that students have never really known their facts while others claim that learning facts will become a fact of the past.

Regardless of whether you agree whether facts are going the way of fiction or not, it is interesting to think about how the internet is helping and/or hindering our brains.

Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, believes that the internet may be sacrificing our ability to stay focused and think deeply. He was the one who first argued that Google might be making us stupid! On his blog, and in his book, he argues that hyperlinks add to the rushed, superficial thinking that the web already encourages. This video sums up quite nicely what our brain might look like ‘on the internet’.

One of the very foundations of the internet, may also be one of the largest contributors to these issues: the hyperlink.

Some rights reserved by John-Morgan

As Carr explains:

“Sometimes, they’re big distractions – we click on a link, then another, then another, and pretty soon we’ve forgotten what we’d started out to do or to read. Other times, they’re tiny distractions, little textual gnats buzzing around your head. Even if you don’t click on a link, your eyes notice it, and your frontal cortex has to fire up a bunch of neurons to decide whether to click or not. You may not notice the little extra cognitive load placed on your brain, but it’s there and it matters. People who read hypertext comprehend and learn less, studies show, than those who read the same material in printed form. The more links in a piece of writing, the bigger the hit on comprehension.”

Is is possible that hyperlinking is narrowing our perspective, leading us astray, on tangents that detract from our focus? Do hyperlinks shut down certain aspects of our brains, taking our ability to problem solve and build those connections ourselves? Imagine reading a news article with 15 links as a person with attention deficit disorder – how would you keep it straight?

Or are links built in to the ethics of the web?

With ‘delinkification’, Nicholas Carr made a radical suggestion: that we list the links at the bottom of the page, (also known as, *gasp*, footnotes). He suggests that this would make texts more readable and less distracting.

However, since the web is truly build on a foundation of connection, he ruffled a few feathers. He was even accused of attempting to “unbuild the web” by Jay Rosen. Others defend the connections, saying that links are the currency of the web. If I had a dollar for every link I had clicked… I would be very, very wealthy.

I see the internet as one of our last great frontiers, with links as a prime opportunity to build and connect the journey. But I do agree, that their value has to be maximized, otherwise it is just noise.

With my students, I tell them that links should create a sense of community, and that they should be used to add something new to their blog post. A link should should offer credibility, validity and enhance the reading experience. For those that dislike the link, perhaps they should attempt an exercise in self-control, like this young journalist who is leaving the internet for a year.

Adding a link allows writers to expand their intellectual credibility, and to acknowledge perspectives that are different from their own. I do not always want to get lost in the rabbit-hole that is in the internet, and in those cases, I hate myself for the time that I waste falling into the abyss of links. But I also recognize their power when used for good.

I do believe that the internet is changing the way that we think, the way that our brains function and the way that we consume and interact with information.

Out of 15, how many links did you click on while reading?
How long did it take you to get back to where you started?

From Reactive to Proactive in Internet Safety

We have all agreed that it is important that we teach digital citizenship and online safety but the more important questions of late are WHEN, HOW and by WHOM? Since next year I will be stepping into the role of Technology Learning Coach at my school, these are big questions that need to be grappled with, and clear expectations and understandings need to be built.

At my last international school, we had a technology teachers who had class twice a week with my students. While it was not the best model, there was a clear chain in command with regards to explicitly teaching these skills.

Currently, at my new school, we have become very reactionary in how we deal with issues that come up regarding digital citizenship and internet safety. Some teachers teach it, others attempt to, and in some classrooms, there is no explicit instruction or modeling of appropriate technology usage. There are varying reasons for this: teacher discomfort, an AUP that gets filed away, a need for clearly articulated curriculum and continuum for instruction, time etc.

There also seems to be a general hesitation to discipline students for misusing technology because it has not been explicitly taught. But teachers, administrators and parents would not be afraid to discipline a student who stabbed someone else with scissors, would they? Did we explicitly tell kids that they could not misuse scissors in that way? Are we simply more confident because they have broken a social norm and compromised the safety and well-bring of another student? While my comparison may be unfair, we cannot anticipate every single problem that could come up with students using the internet in school. The possibilities are truly endless. But the same rules should apply.

We need to hold our students (and ourselves) to a higher standard, and expect students to extend the social norms and behaviors that they are taught about how to live in the world to the digital landscape of the internet. While we can and must explicitly teach as much as possible, it is just as important that our consequences for misuse are clearly outlined and communicated.

This current model of “don’t address it until it becomes a problem” is not acceptable. We are constantly blindsided, running around putting out fires, reactively teaching about digital citizenship and online safety.

We could talk about the challenges and reasons why this happens all day, but I am a solutions lady.

Moving forward, how can we be more proactive rather then reactive?

Let me go back to the basic questions.

When?
Teachers love to talk about time, and the lack thereof. But I would argue, we need to articulate our values, and then allocate our time accordingly. If we truly value the instruction of digital citizenship (which I believe we do), then we WILL make the time. The other issue of “when” could be solved by clearly articulating our curriculum, and publishing a continuum of skills regarding digital citizenship in each grade level (I’m speaking from an elementary perspective). When teachers are clearly communicated expectations and given developmentally appropriate standards and benchmarks that align with our curriculum – and most importantly – held accountable for this, teachers will find ways and take the responsibility to authentically embed it into the classes. There should not be such enormous discrepancies between classrooms, and expectations need to be clear and common.

How?
Someone will make a pretty penny if they design an engaging and authentic program to teach digital citizenship and internet safety, but until then, we need to create communities, share resources, and not go at it alone.

By Whom?

Currently, people keep passing the buck. Are teachers responsible for embedding it naturally in their classroom culture and expectations? Should the counselor or librarian be incorporating it into their weekly or monthly lessons? Should the technology coach be solely responsible? While this is the answer no one wants to hear, we are all responsible. But, classroom teachers, who have the most face-time with students, need to find ways to authentically integrate, and when they feel uncomfortable or need support, involve the the technology coach, the counselor, the library… but we cannot all assume someone else will do it.

***

To distill this even further, in order to move from being proactive to reactive, I think we need to do the following:

First. Decide what we value.

If we do indeed value the instruction of digital citizenship then we need to stop putting out fires and start thinking proactively.

Second. Start building and communicating a…

Common technology curriculum and continuum of instruction
Common expectations and accountability for instruction
Common consequences for misuse by students

Sounds easy, right?

Copyright in a Friction-less Web

Some rights reserved by Horia Varlan

Last year, I was working on an awesome project with my students. They were totally engaged in higher level thinking, they were using the web for research and everything was going smoothly. Until… another colleague started asking me questions. My students were using images straight from Google search, using iTunes music for slide shows, and citing websites incorrectly (or not at all). The discussion blew up at school, went to administration, and led to a fury of meetings, policies and trainings on copyright. I was not in trouble of any kind, but I was angry. Not because I did anything wrong- it was a new learning for me – but because I truly believed the foundation of the web was built for sharing.

These are muddy waters, but my thoughts have certainly evolved since this time last year.  Thanks to a change in schools, my COETAIL classes, and colleagues who are challenging my previous notions, I think about these issues more critically.  Who wouldn’t want the content that they created protected?  My grandfather was a classical music composer, and he made his living off of the royalties that he received from people purchasing his music.  If he was alive today, he would be devastated to know his music could be taken free off of the internet.  While I am not completely converted into a copyright queen, I do fundamentally agree with the concept that these are issues that cannot be ignored, and must be addressed in the classroom.

Obviously teachers and students cannot afford to pay for everything they use for educational purposes.  Technology and Learning released the following Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines for teachers, which helps to build our understanding of the do’s and don’ts associated with the specifics in each medium (print material, video, music, internet etc).  Education World has also published a series of articles discussing copy-rights and copy-wrongs.  While I do believe there are grey areas, these are good starting point.

At the annual Facebook f8conference in September 2011, Mark Zuckerberg coined the term friction-less web.  While unveiling timeline, he described it as a, “real-time serendipity in a friction-less experience”.  Designed on the principles that web users do not want to think, that it should be as simple as possible, and under the concept that privacy could potentially become obsolete – everyone would know what you have read/watched/listened to etc.  Less resistance.  More simplicity.

Copyright in a friction-less web seem to be counter-intuitive.  If web-designers and social media companies are trying to create less friction, and make sharing more simple than ever; how can we put the brakes back on and make it more complicated?  Friction pulls something in the opposite direction.

By constantly putting restrictions and rules on our kids for web use, are we working against the future of the internet?  Will the rules simply become obsolete in the long wrong?

Or is copy-wrong and copy-right here to stay?

Happy Privacy Week!

“Just because something is publicly accessible does not mean that people want it to be publicized.” -Dana Boyd

You knew about Poetry Month, and Earth Day, but I bet you have never heard of Privacy Week! The week is to encourage individuals to engage in a national dialogue on privacy and to take charge of their privacy. It may also be an opportunity to rant and rave about how Privacy Is Dead, but I digress.

I currently teach Grade 5. As you can imagine, Grade 5 students are starting to test boundaries, challenge their previous assumptions and they are doing many of this in the digital landscape. Despite our discussions and lessons, my students feel anonymous on the web. I’ve told them that every click is like leaving a fingerprint or a piece of their DNA, yet, their actions tell me that they do not believe me!

A few weeks back, a student wrote a cruel text message to another student in my class… and it turned out that the text message went to the other student’s mother’s phone. Ouch. Another student wrote a mean comment in a google doc, not remembering that their name appears in the comment box. Classic. And earlier this year, another student wrote an anonymous comment on someone’s blog but we were able to track the IP address. Ooops.

If the kids did this on the school yard, they would not speak loud enough to be heard, for fear of the consequences. Yet, online, these kids to not think twice about incriminating themselves. This got me to thinking – what are they not understanding?

Is this an issue of trust? Privacy? Unclear expectations? Lack of maturity?

It got me to thinking about my first interactions on the web. I certainly made a lot of these rookie errors – publishing too much information, not checking my privacy settings, typing words that I did not realize could ever come back to haunt me. But, I attributed this to a lack of understanding of the web – since it was all new to me. By nature, I also trust easily, and I got burned a few times before I realized I had to make some changes. Perhaps the embarrassment and horror those students must have felt when they realized their errors must have made were the same that I felt when I realized I had not controlled my privacy effectively. That oh-just-kill-me-now feeling engulfing me.

And then it hit me. Wanting privacy is not necessarily about having things to hide, it is about having some semblance of control, some sense of safety. Just like in live social circles, people want to build up a community, where we can actually open up. When we freak out about privacy settings, aren’t we really just feeling a lack of control? Everyone has things that they don’t want everyone to know. Everyone. It is not just secrets. But with tweets, Facebook updates, Instagram, we are pushing the boundaries of our private selves and contributing to our own discomforts. Is it possible to maintain your “privacy” while living in public? Or is it all an illusion, and our online identity is just theatrics?

If adults cannot even grapple with these issues – what does this all mean for my students?

Ethnographer Dana Boyd, focuses on social media research. In her address at SXSW in 2010, “Making Sense of Privacy and Publicity“, she spoke about the difference between PII (Personally Identifiable Information) and PEI (Personally Embarrassing Information). We teach kids not to put any PII on the internet, yet many adults do, in order to find and connect with friends in social networks. What gets us up in the morning to check Facebook to untag a picture is really PEI. However, what is embarrassing to one person, may not be embarrassing to another. At some point, individually, we all need to draw a line. We do not need to record every moment of our private lives publicly. Is it the same people complaining about their privacy settings who are also posting instant updates from their Friday night social engagement? As Michael Malice aptly puts it, “People think that every thought they have, every experience — if it is not captured it is lost.” There is certainly a difference between being out in public, and wanting that information being publicized to the world. On the web, that line is inherently blurred.

This is a complicated issue with complicated, and personal, answers.

Let me leave you with some questions that are again recommended by Dana Boyd. When talking to kids about privacy, she recommends toning down the instruction, and increasing the dialogue. Avoid telling them what to do, instead asking questions such as… What are you trying to achieve? Who do you think you’re talking to? How would you feel if someone else was looking? What if what you said could be misinterpreted?

And finally, have you, and your students consider the beauty and magic in a “life less posted”.

Just some public thoughts in honor of Privacy Week.

So You Want to be a Superhero?

“Ideas are the most valuable thing. Good ones make all the difference; bad ones can hold us back, maybe even destroy us. If we can focus on finding the right ones, helping distill them, and transfer them as quickly as possible, we can get more of that. Curation is that means to the end.” – Peter Hopkins

It has become impossible not to think about the internet without considering the idea of digital citizenship and what it means to create a digital footprint, and a digital identity. As educators, it has certainly become our responsibility to explicitly teach students the specific details about the fingerprints they leave online, and how to manage their identities as digital citizens. They need to know who they are, and what they stand for, and how to represent that effectively in the digital landscape.

But, I believe our responsibilities as educators go far beyond just teaching and modeling digital citizenship. With the speed the internet is growing, and the amount of information that is passed in an internet minute, we need to teach out students more then just how to manage their digital footprints, but by extension, how to manage information. We have to shift our focus from merely teaching them how to create new content, but how to continually make sense of the content that is being produced. There is an overwhelming mind-blogging amount of information, and kids (and adults!) need to be taught how to make meaning out of it.

The buzz word of the past few months refers to a relatively new group of people who have become internet content curators. When I hear the word curator, most people probably think of a museum or art curator. Originally derived from Latin meaning ‘to care for‘, the word has evolved to include digital curators who filter through the endless information on the internet, and attempt to organize, synthesize and contextualize it. Maria Popova, curator and writer of a popular blog called Brain Pickings, describes content curation as the “drive to find the interesting, meaningful, and relevant amidst the vast maze of overabundant information, creating a framework for what matter in the world and why”.

Take a look at this video created by Percolate, a company that turns brands into curators. It was created to help build understanding about content curation:

Being a curator is a HUGE job. In fact, it is a job of epic, super-human proportions. It is a job which may only be a fit for a superhero! While we have been relying on machines and programs to sort through our information, with sites such as Google, curation relies on humans. But not just any human. A human with a critical eye, an ability to categorize and organize. Superheroes are usually described as having enhanced senses, a strong moral code, and they often rely on technology as their secret weapon. As teachers, can we begin equipping our students with these superhuman abilities?

Curator tools are being designed at an ever-accelerating rate. Sites like Pinterest, Scoop-it, and magnify.net all are designed with the purpose to help humans take control of this new job description.

Our kids are doing this already – they have to be. Living in a digital landscape – they are online, attempting to sort through the mass of information. But, are they doing effectively? Are they simply stealing ideas? Are they honoring attribution? Are they getting to what really matters, and ignoring the irrelevant?

Let’s teach our kids to be the new superheroes of the internet. The world needs us to.