Dec 29, 2009

Toodles to 2009...

In his blog "2¢ Worth" David Warlick asks the question:

"Will we, as a larger defining education community, come to accept social learning techniques and integrate them, or will we continue to fear and block these opportunities?"
(Warlick, 2009)

As we look back on 2009 and begin to make resolutions for 2010, we need to think hard about the world that our children live in. Here are snapshots of the past year, through the digital lens and social learning.

This youtube video reviews 2009 through the digital lens.

The Year of 2009 in Technology:

The Top Ten Most Important tweets in 2009. This is from the
buzzmarketing daily site.

This is a mash-up of the Top 25 Billboard Hits in 2009.

The coolest part of all of this is where I found the links to this information. Can you guess?

Dec 13, 2009

Twitter for teachers?

"How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? " (Godin in Larkin).

This video provides a quick snapshot of how some people use twitter. Twitter is a quick way to connect with others. I have been wondering how twitter can help me do my job better and in search of this answer, I have begun to play around with twitter and have even sent out a few tweets. (a tweet is a message to the world...well, your following) I began building my network by finding teachers who are already twittering and then I added their network of people to my own. I am slowly adding more people to my network and will hopefully have enough people in my network to start collaborating and sharing teaching resources. Well, I am off to tweet....toodles!

Nov 22, 2009

Where do we begin?

After watching this video last Fall, I felt fear. I did not know where to start my online learning journey, but felt it was essential to start getting connected. Here are a few ways that I started to connect with the world outside my physical space.

3 Tools to Begin to Connect (with the world)

1. Delicious

Delicious is a social bookmarking site. Social bookmarking is a way for you to SHARE, organize, search and manage bookmarks of web resources (Wikipedia). I personally LOVE delicious because I can access my bookmarks anywhere, anytime and on any computer. I bookmark sites at home and then have them for when I go to work. I also can see other people's bookmarks, which saves me time and gives me a lot more information than if I searched for sites by myself.

2. Youtube/Teachertube

Yes, Youtube is number 2 for me. Whenever I want to learn something, that is the first place I go. For example, I wanted to learn to play a couple songs on the violin last summer, so I went to youtube. I used "expert village" to help me learn to play "twinkle, twinkle." Fun stuff! I also love youtube for the classroom. I love to use short clips from youtube to capture my students attention.

3. Blogs

A blog "is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video" (Wikipedia). I use blogs to stay on top of what is new out there in the digital world. I would recommend that you find a few blogs that interest you and enjoy! Definitely look for blogs that are updated frequently, so you stay on the cutting edge of what is going on in the web! ;)

My favorites are:

Free Technology for Teachers: This site is so cool! You need to bookmark this one for sure!

2¢ Worth David Warlick is an edublogger (writes about technology and education) and poses interesting questions that challenge my thinking.

Web-blogged Will Richardson is an edublogger who also writes about teaching!

Eide-Neorolearnng Blog This one is a just a personal interest as I am fascinated by the brain.

Mary Castle's First Grade Blog (I am trying to blog this year with my class, so I followed this teacher for over a year)

I recommend that you fiddle around a little bit with these applications and see where it takes you and who you meet!

Nov 21, 2009

Will Richardson Inspires Again!

I played around with twitter a few months ago when Ashton Kutcher challenged Larry King to a twitter popularity contest. I did not do too much else with twitter because I felt that my facebook social network was enough for me to keep up with. However, after listening to Will Richardson, a top edublogger and author of "Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts", at the Leading and Learning Conference in Red Deer today, I realized I needed to give tweeting another try. Richardson contends that Twitter provides "passion-based learners" a way to connect with each other. He inspired me once before to start reading blogs and then to blog and I am back in the swing of things as I begin tweeting.

Mr. Richardson talked about social networks, and how, as educators, we need to start teaching digital learners in our classrooms about their presence online and how they can connect with others outside their physical space to learn. He mentioned the new literacy, which is the "literacy of learning" online. Indeed, there are lots of ways to connect with others who have similar interests and passions. From groups of municylcists (yes, they really do exist!) sharing daring adventures on youtube and various forums, to individuals seeking answers to questions on youtube, twitter and facebook, there are lots of ways to connect.

Here is a video that Mr. Richardson showed to illustrate how powerful social networks can be as we learn to connect with others online.

After watching this video of a 12 year old boy searching out an answer to his question, you realize that this is no longer about technology, it is about culture. Digital natives are growing up in a digital world and the reality is that the internet is a way of life.

What networks do you connect with to learn outside your physical space?

Apr 4, 2009

A Vision of the Future: Learning in the 21st Century

My vision of the future, for learning in the 21st Century, evolved as a result of EDES 501 and EDES 545. In EDES 501 my eyes were opened to all the collaborative web 2.0 tools available to engage students in learning. I had so much fun learning about new technologies for learning, that I couldn't resist taking EDES 545.

This course began with an engaging reading of Joyce Valenza's powerful and thought provoking Manifesto and from there we delved into the Schoolwide Library Issue, where we explored current research and ideas of the emerging Library 2.0. This course challenged some of my preconceived notions as we discussed and debated many topics and issues including:

1. Teaching Digital Natives
2. Filtering
3. The Digital Divide
4. Intellectual Freedom
5. Privacy
6. Technology Integration
7. Technology Professional Development

As I began to form my vision of the future, I decided to take pictures of different parts of the school and pictures of students using technology. As I took pictures of students engaged in their learning, I heard a voice whisper:

They are the future and the future is now.

What would learning in the future look like to me? I started looking at where we are and exploring possibilities based on what I have learned in this course and EDES 501. I added quotes from the readings, especially from Valenza's inspiring Manifesto. I felt these quotes summarized my vision of what teaching and learning with technology could and should look like.

What will you do to transform your classroom for learning in the 21st Century?

Mar 29, 2009

Professional Development for 21st Century Learning

I recently joined a staff, at an elementary school, in my new town, as the Grade One teacher. Over the last two months, I have been participating in their professional development activities and we recently had a workshop on a new technology that I have never used or even seen. We learned about the "Smart Table" which is a new product that Smart Technologies designed. During the PD session we learned what it can do and how it can transform learning in the classroom. After the session, I asked when we will get it in our classroom and felt excited to have my students use it.

For me, professional development in the areas of technology and web 2.0 is very effective in encouraging me to integrate technology into my practice. I personally love technology and find it very beneficial for students. I am an easy sell.

What about those teachers that never grew up with technology or don't seem to want to try the new tools that are out there? How do we get them to buy into using technology in their practice?

In the article, "A Professional Development Menu," Kimberely Ketterer discusses ways to motivate teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. She contends that the digital divide between skilled and unskilled teachers is ever present and that without professional development on technology, the digital divide becomes even more pronounced (Ketterer, 2008). I feel ready to use it, but am also very comfortable with technology. The professional development offered this evening, certainly made me more excited to start using it, but I wonder if anyone feels hesitant to use it?

How do you learn technology best?

During this evening's workshop on the smart table, I asked the teacher I was standing with how she has been enjoying her smartboard and if she has tried using "Making Words" with it yet. She said she didn't know how and I ended up suggesting that we work together to build a lesson that she could use with her students. Last week, I mentioned the 2.0 tool, "animoto," to another teacher who I knew is trying new ways to integrate technology. Before the students arrived I showed him how easy it is to use and by recess he came and discussed some challenges that he was finding with it and then after school he came with a huge smile to tell me he made a slideshow with it. As I reflected on both instances, I realized that perhaps, in a way, for those two situations, and perhaps more in the future, I am like the "knowledge broker," that is described in Plair's article titled, "Revamping Professional Development for Technology Integration and Fluency" (Plair, 2008). On the same note, I will be reaching out to the teachers who have used the smart table and other technologies like "Senteneo" in their classroom and I will be learning from them as well, and they will become the "knowledge brokers" to me.

Keeping this in mind, when supporting teachers in infusing technology into their curriculum, it is important to be aware of the different kinds of mentoring roles that teachers may need in order to be successful with technology integration. In "Coach, Nurture, and Nudge," Ketterer effectively states that some teachers prefer coaches to learn how to integrate technology and have made the shift in teaching traditionally to teaching with technology, whereas some teachers need nurturing in order to integrate technology. These learners have made the shift from the traditional classroom, but are not confident in using their new skill. They need a nurturing partner teacher who will help them develop and model lessons There are also those learners that need to be nudged and tend to be teachers who are safe in their comfort zone, and know that they have been successful doing what they have always done, and are hesitant to step out of their comfort zone. These teachers need to be "gently pushed, prodded and cajoled" into learning how to integrate technology (Ketterer, 2008). Knowing these three different learners that Ketterer describes and having an understanding of the digital divide, helps me to find new ways to motivate and encourage others.

In what ways can technology leaders inspire teachers to use technology in their lessons?

Camillo Gagliolo explores this question in her article titled, "Help Teachers Mentor One Another" (Gagliolo, 2008). She identifies two ways that technology leaders can help teachers continue to learn and implement technology. One way this can be achieved is through building a professional learning community with a focus on student learning. Here teachers collaborate, give feedback and reflect o individual and community improvements. In my school, the primary teachers meet once a week at lunch hour to discuss what is happening in the classrooms. This professional learning community is a great place to discuss integrating technology and finding solutions to some of the challenges that are faced when using technology in the classroom. This PLC can also focus on a number of strategies including, sharing best practices, peer coaching and lesson study (Harris, 2008). Another way that technology leaders can help teachers to learn and implement technology is by helping teachers establish a cadre of mentor teachers. Gagliolo effectively contends that "powerful learning when teachers teach each other in a peer-peer network (Gagliolo, 2008). Here, teachers can observe each others' classrooms, provide feedback, personal ongoing technical and pedagogical support and, of course, celebrate successes by sharing at a staff meeting or co-present at a local conference together (Gagliolo, 2008). These can be powerful strategies to help teachers successfully integrate technology.

I look forward to sharing how I have been using technology in my classroom and how I am continuously learning new ways to reach and teach 21st century learners. Perhaps I will continue to blog my learning, as I strive to take my PD growth up 2 notches.

Mar 17, 2009

Not just small steps but leaps and bounds!

I was observing a Grade One Math lesson this morning, where the teacher has been trying new ways to integrate technology. The teacher had the class sing, "The Bubblegum Song," which is about spending money on bubblegum, and then she had the students sit on the carpet to learn about money as they interacted with the smartboard. All students were engaged as they learned each story about the picture on the Canadian coins, listened to the sound of a loon, saw a picture of the Canadian mint in Manitoba and then matched coins with their proper value and bought items from a simulated online store. At the end of the smartboard lesson, students had their own set of coins to explore and made number stories, complete with pictures. This was a great lesson and made me wonder if:

"The use and integration of educational technology has improved teaching and learning?"

I do think that the use and integration of educational technology can improve teaching and help all learners, when integrated effectively. Integrating technology into lessons, gives students the opportunity to achieve the learning outcomes in a variety of ways.

We know from Gardener's theory of multiple intelligences that students learn in different ways and that there are eight different potential pathways to learning (Brualdi, 1998). If you already take a multiple intelligences approach to teaching and use a variety of strategies to reach all learners, then it is easy to see that integrating technology can become a great addition to any lesson plan. In the article, "Why do teachers not practice what they believe regarding technology," Chen argues that for teachers to embrace technology in the classroom, they need to believe that technology use will not disturb higher level goals, rather can help achieve higher level goals more effectively and that teachers will have adequate ability and sufficient resources to use technology (Chen, 2008). Using the smartboard effectively, for example, can provide students with a visual, auditory and hands on approach to learning, whereas using a powerpoint presentation for a lecture is not any different than using an overhead.

Just as with any lesson, it takes more than including multiple intelligences to make the lesson effective, as the learning needs to be meaningful. In the article, "Meaningful Technology Integration in Early Learning Environments," Weng et al, contend that when integrating technology there needs to be a constructivist framework and curriculum that emphasizes learner centered exploration and active meaning making (Weng et al, 2008). They state that the choice of technology should be based on how well the tools serve classroom learning, teaching needs and student needs (
Weng et al, 2008). So teacher's perceptions of pedagogical beliefs play a big role of the integration of technology. In "A Study of Teacher Perceptions of Instructional Technology Integration," Gorder noted that four pedagogical principles that were practiced in classrooms where technology was integrated. They include active learning, mediation, collaboration and interactivity (Jaffee in Gorder, 2008). While there are easy ways to integrate technology into your day as Linda Star highlights in "Education World," including accessing the online weather channel, including URL's into your monthly calendar and providing a URL with a daily quote, there are other more meaningful ways to integrating technology into your classroom. (Starr, 2002). There are numerous web 2.0 tools like blogs, digital storytelling, podcasts, youtube and other online sites with simulations, virtual field trips and discussion sites like Skype, that can make learning come alive in your classroom.

For me, having a smartboard in the classroom and easy access to computers gives me the opportunity to add interesting strategies and tools to my lessons. All learners are benefiting from using the technology for their learning and while we may be taking small steps to implementing technology effectively, the learning for students certainly jumps from small steps to making leaps and bounds!

Mar 15, 2009

"Developing Responsible Cybercitizens"

Have you ever googled your name to see what hits you get?

After watching the google videos on privacy, I decided to see what happened when I googled my name. Guess what I found? Yes, there was Danielle Spencer everywhere! Thank goodness for Russell Crowe's beautiful wife, Danielle Spencer, because links about that Danielle Spencer filled page 1 and 2, however, by page 3 there I was! My facebook account with my picture and this blog "Up 2 Notches" were right there, in plain view. I wondered if it was because of the "cookies" and "cache" in my temporary folders, as the google videos explained? I had to figure this out. So I went onto my husband's computer and googled away. There I was again! I was "googleable." It left me

As an educator, I am always aware of my professional conduct and have considered my professionalism online, so it was easy for me to agree with Doug Johnson's tips for educators in"Lighting Lamps." He reminds educators to use extreme caution when engaging in blogging or other forms of Internet communication (Johnson, 2008). His tips include "write assuming your boss is reading," and "gripe globally, praise locally" (Johnson, 2008). For me, my facebook account is for social networking, my ning is to share teaching ideas and my blogs are used to share ideas and explore the realities of the digital world, and one reality is that when you are online, you are in the public realm.

How do we teach students that the internet is a public place and to be careful with giving out private information? How do we develop responsible cybercitizens?

While the Canadian government's document titled, "Children's Online Privacy" shows steps in beginning to set expectations and standards by "urging" industry to "adopt the highest possible standard of privacy possible," and "wishes" to work with "data protection regulators from other countries to ensure that children have access to an online environment that is safe and respects an individuals privacy," we need to begin educating students on privacy.

Perhaps one way is by modeling that privacy is respected and important. One example used in "Social Studies Vision: Consider This," is to teach students to keep passwords private. The authors of this article also noted that lessons on what is private information is important, especially for elementary students (Berson et al, 2004). I also wondered, after reading "The Ebb and Flow of Library Privacy," and from the discussions on the discussion board, about keeping library records confidential, if that would be another good way to model privacy.

Teachers can integrate teaching responsible cybercitizenship in the classroom and can use some online websites that engage students and teach them cyberskills. In the article, An Analysis of Electronic Media to Prepare Children for Safe and Ethical Practices in Digital Environments, by Berson and Desai, recommend these websites for practicing making responsible decisions online: Brainpop,, Media Awareness Network, iSafe, Netsmartz, and Hectors World (Berson et al, 2008). After going to each, I highly recommend Hector's World, as it tells students right at the beginning when they enter a nickname, to "remember only to enter a nickname." Then once you enter a nickname, they clearly state that they will not be keeping any information or asking for details.

This leads from privacy of personal information into the "Digital Dossier," which is the "accumulation of personal data collected as people use digital technology" (Di Gennaro, 2008). In Born Digital, Palfrey and Gasser, state that protecting the privacy of young people with respect to their digital identity is a great challenge, because there are many "economic incentives" at play (Palfrey and Gasser, 2008). However, we can teach students that information about them is tracked digitally and teach them how information on them is collected and how they are leaving a "digital footprint" behind.

In Lighting Lamps, Johnson tells teachers to "write assuming your boss is reading" and "gripe globally, praise locally," and as teachers we need to teach our student cybercitizens to "write assuming your parents and the world is reading" (because they can and probably are) and "think globally and act cybersafely."

Just curious, have you googled your name yet?

Feb 22, 2009

"How do your students respect intellectual property?"

For this week's blog, I decided to ask my colleagues the question:

"How do your students respect intellectual property?"

I had many discussions on what intellectual property is and shared ideas on ways to teach students about respecting intellectual property and following the "fair use" principle. In order to begin discussions with other teachers, I knew that I needed a clear definition of what intellectual property is. I knew this because last week, I wasn't even too sure what it entailed. Using Wikipedia, I found that intellectual property is the "legal property rights over creations of the mind, both artistic and commercial, and the corresponding fields of law" (Wikipedia). It is also defined as the "fruit of one's intellect" by Rebecca Butler in "Borrowing Media from Around the World" and she notes that there are many different categories of intellectual property including copyright, patent, trademarks, trade secrets and brand names (Butler, 2005).

I have used many sources including non-copyrighted and copyrighted material for many lessons. For instance, I have used National Geographic magazines and various websites for students to add pictures to their Science and Social Studies projects in Grade One. I have used images and animations that I have found online to add to my wikis, webpages and projects. When considering using these sources, I decided that it is fine to use what I need to since it benefits my student's learning and I respected those sites that asked for permission to use images by emailing them. However, I began to wonder last week, as we were discussing respecting intellectual property in our course, if I should have even used the National Geographic magazine and sports magazines for our recent collage projects.

What should I have done?

It seems to me that if we continue to use basic common sense, we'll be okay to use what we need to, in order to meet our outcomes and teach our children. According to the "Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Education," there are three basic rules to follow if you are unsure whether you can use somebody else's material online or in print.

3 Rules to Follow when teaching children about respecting intellectual property:

1. Will there be excessive economic harm to the owner of the material?

2. Are you acting reasonably and in good faith with the material?

3. Will using the material promote the advancement of knowledge?

Even though I follow those three basic rules, it is our job as teachers and teacher-librarians to teach students about plagiarism. The reality is that there are new norms of information sharing appearing (Code of Best Practices in Fair Use and Media Literacy Education). It is so easy to download songs from file sharing sites like limewire and to download a podcast from a website.

In "Passport to Digital Citizenship", Mike Ribble provides a "four stage framework" for teaching digital citizenship, which would work in Grade 1 to Grade 12 for teaching media literacy. This framework is a great model for teachers to use when teaching students how to be a responsible citizen on the internet. The four steps are awareness, guided practice, modeling and demonstration and feedback and analysis.

1. Awareness: Are your students aware of the copyright laws? Are your colleagues aware of the need to teach students about respecting intellectual property? Do they allow students to add music and images to their presentation projects? Do they discuss fair use and purposes of using other people's work? As I have said before, we need to use common sense when using other people's work. It is considerate and respectful to contact the person before using an image for a webpage or wiki, and there are sites that let you know whether you can use their property or not.

2. Guided Practice: When is it a good opportunity for students to practice respecting other people's work? How do you discuss fair use? I believe that it is the "teachable moment" that makes a lasting impression on the students. I keep my ears and eyes open for those moments throughout the day.

3. Modeling and Demonstration: When building a webpage, powerpoint presentation or designing a lesson, are you modeling proper and fair use of information? As teachers we need to be aware of how we are respecting other people's property as we are models for our students.

4. Reflect and Analysis: How do we find time to discuss using technology appropriately with other teachers and with our students? It is a constant challenge for teachers to find time to eat a sandwich let alone discuss appropriate use of information on the Internet, so what can we do? I have recently learned (being new on staff) that the primary teacher's get together for lunch on Monday's to discuss different things that relate to the primary grades. I think this is a great opportunity to bring in some technology discussions, including how we can teach our students about intellectual property and respecting other people's work. Our students also need time to discuss this and should be a natural part of a lesson during discussions of using different kinds of information for projects.

For me, the best part of the discussions with other teacher's this week, was how they teach their students that their work is valued and should be treated fairly. In the primary grades, I found that many teachers use the vocabulary "fair use," and "copyrighted" when using images or text from the internet and print materials for projects in the classroom. In Grade One, we often discuss the authors and illustrators, and I often use the vocabulary that the students are also authors and illustrators when they complete certain projects, in hopes that they will begin to understand that their work belongs to them and needs to be respected. I am going to continue to consider other ways to teach primary students about respecting intellectual property and will follow the guidelines that I have learned and continue to learn.

Feb 8, 2009

The Digital Divide: How relevant is it?

"It is dangerously destabilizing to have half the world on the cutting edge of technology while the other half struggles on the bare edge of survival." Bill Clinton

It is definitely unsettling to consider that 1 in 2 Americans are online while 1 in 250 Africans has internet access and that the United States and Canada have more internet users than Asia, Africa, and Latin America combined ( It is even more unsettling to learn that we don't need to do a comparison between continents to see a divide. We can look within our own communities and schools to discover a digital divide.

What is the digital divide?

The digital divide is defined as "the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard to both their opportunities to access information and communication technology (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities" (OECD in Looker and Thiessen, 2003). The divide also affects members of minority ethnic or language groups, and those in more rural and remote regions (Looker and Thiessen, 2003). In other words, the digital divide is the division between those who have access to information and communication technologies and are using it effectively, and those who do not (

How is the digital divide a relevant issue for teachers today?

When I compare two schools that I have recently taught in, a rural community school and an urban school, there are some clear divisions with information and communication technology within each school. In the rural school, while I had five computers in my classroom, a smartboard, access to a computer lab in the afternoons, and a "supernet" connection, the divisions technology specialist would come once in a while to fix glitches in the network and on different computers. There was also little support from a technology specialist for integrating technology. To update computer skills, teachers can take an online course or travel for a minimum of five hours to attend a workshop where the teacher has to use a lot of their own money to attend. The digital divide is seen within this rural school. In fact, rural schools are less likely than urban ones to have a well trained specialist, feed from teaching responsibilities, to coordinate ICT in the school. They are also less likely to have different types of technical training (Looker and Thiessen, 2003).

On the other hand, in the urban school, we have a teacher-librarian who seems to be constantly updating the library, a technology specialist within the division that I have seen twice already (I started work last Monday), who answers questions about technology integration, classrooms have mobile smartboards (which come with their own set of challenges), and one computer lab to share in the afternoons. There is high speed internet, but it is difficult to get into the lab more than once a week and it is difficult to get through a lesson without tripping over the smartboard cord at least three times and having to reorient the board each time. Access to professional development is much easier where I am currently located because the various school divisions around the city offer a variety of technology workshops in the evenings throughout the year.

While we had supernet in the rural school and high speed internet access in the urban one, the challenges of integrating technology effectively, especially with Web 2.0 tools, still remain. The article, "Web 2.0 in Schools: Our Digital Divide is Showing," discusses a model describing the four levels of influence that take the form of the digital divide in schools. The four levels in the model are:

1. Access - Does your school network crash? Do you have access to high speed internet? Do all students have access to a computer? How about at home?
There are times when our network crashes and part of the lesson was using the internet. Not all students in my classes have computers at home. Computer use at the school is their only opportunity to use the computer.

2. Skill - What skill level would you rate yourself at for integrating technology into your lessons? How will you continue to update your knowledge and skills? What skill level do your students come in with? Keep in mind that research shows that families with low level of parental education, and those from rural areas are less likely to have computer access at home (Looker and Thiessen, 2003). I find that I am continuously developing my technology skills and my knowledge to integrate technology with my units. It is a constant challenge for me.

3. Policy - Does your school have an acceptable use policy? Do the filters work effectively? Our school is currently developing an acceptable use policy. The filters are pretty tight. it is difficult to deliver lessons that i planned at home, because many sites are blocked. Can you believe the podcasting site is blocked?

4. Motivation - Are you motivated to learn more about technology? Are you motivated to integrate technology? Since you are currently reading this, you must be somewhat motivated, but how about your colleagues? How can you motivate them? I am motivated to learn about technology and love to gain new ideas and understanding of integrating it in the classroom. I think it is a challenge to get others on board to use technology in their classrooms, especially since I am a classroom teacher, not a teacher librarian. But I am certainly willing to try to motivate and share my ideas.

Did any of this sound familiar to you?

While reflecting on the questions that came to me while looking at the model, I wondered what some possible solutions are to bridge the gap of the digital divide in schools. I came up with a few solutions:

1. Since having a computer at home increases the likelihood that students will graduate from high school, then we need to think of ways to give students more opportunities to use the computer. Can a school fundraise to have laptops to sign out to students? Can schools and companies recycle their old computers by somehow giving their computers to those students in need?

2. Can professional development for teachers in rural areas be done online through certain sites or even through video conferencing?

3. Can teachers support and motivate each other during PLC's or other times throughout the school year?

4. Can schools celebrate what different classes are doing and showcase the use of technology in hopes of inspiring others?

Is the digital divide closing?

In "Unveiling the Digital Divide," George Sciadas claims that "in an overall sense, the digital divide is closing" since from year to year more people are using the internet and the comparison is not so much between the haves and have nots, but rather between the "haves", "have more" and "have less" groups (Sciadas, 2002). As long as we maintain the "Standards for the 21st Century Learner," and a vision for schools and libraries, I believe that we are well on our way to bridging the gap.

Jan 30, 2009

Filters? To teach or not to teach, that is the question.

“To not teach technology use responsibly is neglecting the charge of universal education.”
Don Knezek

The Problem:

Filters are supposed to be protecting school networks from malware and hackers, while also stopping access to inappropriate or offensive content. Those who believe that filters are protecting users are preventing those users from deciding for themselves which information they would or would not like to access (
Ryan, 2003). For example, filters are being used to keep a tight control over usage of certain applications like instant messaging, youtube, facebook and many sites that someone out there has deemed "dangerous." With filtering software, you don't know which sites are blocked or rated, you know some, but not all pre-programmed stoplists of words, phrases, sites, and topics deemed objectionable and these products are not created by educators (Schrader, 1999).

Other than filtering blatantly obvious sites that parents and educators would not want their children to come across, I think it is up to parents and teachers to teach students how to be responsible on the internet. It is the teachers job to preview sites before a lesson, the same as previewing videos before letting students watch them in class, and when students are on the internet, it is our job to supervise and to make sure students are able to be critical of information that they come across.

Why would we need provincial ministries to create web filtering standards for schools?

When I read "Patrolling Web 2.0, " I realized that it is the educators that need to make the decisions for our students, not the information specialists like Losinski, the author of this article. He claims that web 2.0 has "little or no value to education," and that social networking sites like MySpace and facebook are "sheer trouble," and these sites should be blocked. We don't need a policy or web standards to dictate where each and every individual can and cannot go when online.

We teach a curriculum that clearly strives to:

  • reflect the essential knowledge, skills and attitudes that Alberta students need to be well-prepared for future learning and the world of work
  • anticipate and plan for the needs of the future by considering the changes and developments in society, such as trends in employment, globalization, advances in technology and stewardship of the environment
  • provide learners with attitudes, skills and knowledge that will enable them to become engaged, active, informed and responsible citizens

The curriculum is designed to prepare students for the future, including lifelong learning and the world of work and as teachers we need to make sure students have the knowledge, skills and attributes to be successful (Alberta Learning). Therefore, we need to create critical thinkers and students who can evalute content. When students have free computer time in our school they know which sites, we as a school, have deemed acceptable. We value a safe and caring school, so students know that if they play on mini-clips, they cannot choose any games with weapons or violence. There are always those students that will test boundaries and there needs to be consequences. Whether they wear an offensive t-shirt to school or go to an offensive site, there are consequences in place. Our school doesn't need a policy to tell us where students can and cannot go when they are online. If students get lost by clicking an advertisement and it takes them deep into the net, they know how to get back "home" safely. They also know how to tell a teacher when something isn't right. They have learned to solve problems when on the internet and how to be responsible students.

The Solution:

The solution is pretty simple. We need more professional development so teachers can develop techniques for educating their students about responsible internet use (Villano, 2008). When teachers have the opportunity to try web 2.0 tools such as nings, facebook, and flikr, then they have the chance to see its educational benefits and teachable moments. They would quickly learn the digital culture that students are living in and would see how social networking can actually empower teens and be used as a learning tool on how to be smart and safe when using technology (Abram, 2007). Also, when teachers go surfing for information and come across questionable material, they learn how it happens and can teach students how to search safely and how to critique different sites. We don't need to censor and hide information, we need to teach responsibility and thinking skills. As Will Richardson says, "the only way to get teachers and students to master the web, is to let them use it" (Richardson, 2008).