C2FP: Acceptable Use Policy

For the final project I took advantage of an offer from Donna Frose and worked with a group (Donna Frose, Jennifer Coleman, and Susan Richey) on developing an Acceptable Use Policy.  After some research and discuss we decided to call our version of this document an Empowering  Use Policy.  We each selected three or four schools around the world and we examined their policies with regard to computer use.  It was interesting to see the range of philosophies when it came to describing a school’s approach to how to deal with technology.

There were many surprises in the research phase of this project.  The school where I work, Breck School, wins the award for longest policy with regard to computer usage.  Breck’s AUP is part admissions document, part philosophy, and part business office checklist about what will happen if the computer is damaged.  Okay, so we are conservative mid-westerners, perhaps it is not shocking that we are on the trailing edge of policy formation.  I was surprised that the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, also had a policy that was heavier on what not to do as compared with guidelines stated in a positive manner.  While the school is progressive, perhaps their policy on computer usage is influenced by being a member of the Philadelphia Public School System.

On the positive side, I liked the policy of United Nations International School of Hanoi has a policy that has five points that are stated in a positive manner (Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself, Respect Others, Protect Others, and Respect Intellectual Property).  The policy is short; it is barely half a page, but I feel it covers the central philosophical points, without listing lots of negatives.

Here are the five central principles.
Here are the five central principles. Screen shot from school website.

My favorite philosophy was from the NIST International School of Thailand.  I have their philosophy pictured to the left.  I love the fact that their philosophy is short and positively stated.  Rather than having policy that was shaped by the school’s legal department, this philosophy seems to have been created by educators who are setting positive standards to live up to.

Our final product is also stated in positive terms, but it is organized under the ten guiding principles of the IB school program.  This format was new, and somewhat clumsy for me to work with.  For example, the first three categories are “Inquirers, Knowledgable, and Thinkers.”  These three seem to me to be pretty thinly sliced.  People who ask questions are clearly seeking knowledge and or thinking about topics.  In my perfect world, I won’t have had so many different categories.

Susan, Jennifer, and Donna did the lion’s share of the writing in the drafting stage of our final document.   In retrospect, I don’t know how I missed contributing, but my name doesn’t show up until the editing process.  Susan but all our ideas into a unified voice and then I edited and we all went over the final document making suggestions.

I came away from this project with two takeaways.  One is about the process of working with a group and the second is about our subject matter. First, I need to do a better job of attending to important details.  While I took lots of notes in my notebook, I failed to grasp that I was to be entering what I was learning on the Google Table for our project.  That makes me the weak link in the group, and that is not a role I relish or chose to repeat.  My second learning is that I love that there are schools who are brave enough to state their expectations of students in positive terms as opposed to a laundry list of don’t’s.  I find that encouraging and it makes me want to share those type of policies with the people with whom I work.

C2W5: The Mission: Using Technology to Develop Empathy and Social Change

Harry went down to breakfast the next morning to find the three Dursleys…. (by Helene Sirois)
Harry went down to breakfast the next morning to find the three Dursleys….
(by Helene Sirois)

The question of the week ends with the phrase, “empower students to use technology to make a positive impact in their world.”  As I mulled this over, I started to wonder how many schools have a mission statement that echoes idea of “positive impact.”  Now that I think of it, almost every school is going to want to produce citizen’s who help move the human condition in a positive direction.

Here is a brief sample of the mission statements that I found.  The Anglo-American School of Moscow has a core value of students will, “Contribute as a globally aware citizen.”  Graded: The American School of San Paulo, Brazil wants their students to be a positive force; writing: “They act with honesty and integrity, have a personal commitment to service, and strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others and in the community.” The United Nations International School of Hanoi aspires to have their students be “lifelong learners who strive for excellence and become responsible stewards of our global society and natural environment.”  Here in the flatlands of Minnesota, at Breck School, one of our core values is to: “Instill in each student a deep sense of social responsibility.”  The only school where I didn’t find a core value having to do with making the planet a better place was St. Brutus’s Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys from the Harry Potter books.

Using technology to make the world a better place seems to be a two part process.  First, we need to teach students how to be fluent in how they use technology.  Bergson-Michelson’s and the “Google A Day” articles both highlighted the importance of students knowing how to search.  I hadn’t remembered that when we simply do a “Google Search” we are not including academic texts or sources where you need to pay to get the information.  Ms. Bergson-Michelson’s article also emphasized the importance of difference types of searching and the need to provided students with practice assessing the information they uncover.  I particularly liked the recommendation that we need to work with students doing “think alouds” and explain to them how we evaluate different types of media.  When I get information from a blog, what is my standard for believing the information?  Teaching how to search and evaluate information is skill that needs on-going attention.  But another component in this process is developing students who can see beyond themselves.

A secondary goal of the use of technology is to help develop empathy.  Using the Internet and computers to learn about how others live is a key bridge to having students become agents for social change.  In the end, all of us want students like Jessica Markowitz.  Jessica learned about the horrors of life in Rwanda and then marshals the local resources to help develop funding to provide schooling for young Rwandan girls.  Jessica, her family, and her school mates used technology and tireless energy to help education girls who would would have very few economic opportunities.

We do need to teach our students about the nuts and bolts of technology, but we also need to use technology to explore the world and encourage our students to find a place in the world where they can help the world a better place.

 

 

C2W4: Digital Citizenship

Some rights reserved
Some rights reserved

The first article I read this week was by Mike Ribble and he outlined nine points that he thought were important for digital citizenship.  I will list the points he made in a bit, but first allow me to venture down a rabbit hole.

I looked at the date on Mr. Ribble’s article and I saw that it was from January 2009, which seems like a bit ago.  So I decided that I would wander a bit and see if I might find more recent articles that has a different perspective.

I fired up Google Search, and that is when the communist gnome pictured to the left got involved. [Editor’s note: When I misplace my keys, or can’t find something, I am in the habit of blaming communist gnomes.  I don’t mean to offend anyone.]  It turns out that when you search for “digital citizenship” the first several links all go to Mike Ribble.  It looks

Digital Citizenship
Digital Citizenship

like this is Mike’s meal ticket and so he is all over this topic.  Grrr.  Here is his article for ISTE in June of 2014.  Same nine bullet point which he mentioned seven years ago.. My attempts to help broaden the discussion where being thwarted.  I hate communist gnomes…

Okay, back to content.  Digital citizenship.

Mr. Ribble lists nine points:

  1. Access
  2. Commerce
  3. Communication
  4. Literacy
  5. Etiquette
  6. Law
  7. Respsonsibility
  8. Health and Wellness
  9. Security

This list is similar to the nine points that ISTE lists on their page.  This is from their “infographic” which accompanies the curriculum they sell on the subject of digital citizenship.  While Mr. Ribble has written articles for ISTE on this topic, he doesn’t appear to be the author of the curriculum package.  Here are their main points:

  1. Advocating for equal digital rights & access.
  2. Treating others with respect.
  3. Respecting property (copyright)
  4. Making appropriate decisions when communicating digitally.
  5. Using digital tools to advance your learning.
  6. Responsible Online practicing when purchasing items.
  7. Upholding human rights in digital forums.
  8. Protecting personal information
  9. Limiting screen time.

In 2014, Vicki Davis wrote about Digital Citizenship, although she got stuck on the sixteenth letter in the alphabet when she created her list of key components.  Here is Ms. Davis’s list:

  1. Passwords
  2. Privacy
  3. Personal Information
  4. Photographs (Do your photographs have locational information about where you live?)
  5. Property (How to use Creative Commons and copyright original work)
  6. Permission (Using copyright and correctly citing sources)
  7. Protection (Avoiding viruses)
  8. Professionalism
  9. Personal Brand

I have two thoughts.  First, I’m a little surprised that the range of articles on this subject is pretty narrow.  That said, I do credit Mr. Ribble, Ms. Davis, and ISTE for adding financial safety to their lists.  In our Digital Bootcamp for sixth graders, I would not have thought to include lessons about financial security, and avoiding scams.

One issue I had with Mike Ribble’s article was his comment about including parents in discussions of digital citizenship.  It is a great idea to include parents in whatever  you are trying to accomplish at school, but I bristled a bit at his implication.  He wrote, “Perhaps they have more freedom at home because their parents are not aware of the issues within digital citizenship.” Michael Ribble.  Being a leftist, pinko, NPR listener, I object to the idea that greater freedom at home is being equated with less responsible digital citizenship.  I don’t agree that responsible citizenship should mean students aren’t allowed to make mistakes.

Finally, my favorite article that I found while browsing was called, “The Basics of Open Technology“.  The Albemarle County School District in Albemarle, Virginia lets students in grades 6-12 administer their own laptops.  The school district makes sure everyone in the district is wired, and they provide three versions of programs they consider fundamental.  They have three writing programs (Google Apps, MS Word, & Open Office Writer) and three voice to print programs, three types of calculators, etc…  Their philosophy is that students need to learn not only how to be good digital citizens, but also which programs work the best for them.  I like the idea of providing students with the power to make decisions about their lives.  Yes, middle school students will make mistakes, and have to have their computers wiped and re-imaged, but according to this article, but the time students get to high school, they have made their mistakes, learned, and are now far more productive.

 

 

C2W3: Copyright, it’s on the List.

The question asked was, “do we teach copyright in countries where international copyright is not followed.”  My first thought is, “heck, what do I know about international education from Minnesota?”  But it isn’t that long a trip to realize that even in countries that ignore copyright, we want our students to be skilled to be globally productive.  Since a majority of countries do acknowledge copyright, I think it is safe to add it to the list of media literacies we are working hard to embrace.

Some rights reserved
Some rights reserved

I think the question is larger than copyright.  I think the central question is providing hardware and Internet access for students.   In “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture” the author emphasizes that schools have been off the mark when we focus just on getting new technologies into schools.  I agree that just having new hardware in the building does not prepare kids to create new and inspiring content.  But one of the benefits of students having access to new technologies is that it helps move education away from teacher-centric model to one where students and teachers work together.

While I am more chronologically advanced than many of my peers I have tried to stay current with technology.   I have found that technology has helped level the playing field between student and teacher.  Students who are digital natives are often out ahead of me, or take a new application and explore it well beyond knowledge.  As Paulo Freire wrote, he “who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach.”  COETAIL would also be a model where we are encouraged to share with each other as opposed to just learning from one source.   This seems to be the direction education is moving and I think technology is a driving force behind that movement.  That said, you have to have the Internet connections and the hardware for all these wonderful media literacies to be taught, and copyright seems to be a part of the larger media education we all need.

I think teaching about copyright is similar to teaching students how to footnote.  I think most schools have a progression of when a skill is introduced, practiced, and then when do we expect our students to have the skill mastered.  At the school where I teach (Breck School) we do have a timeline for teaching citation, but I don’t think we have joined the 21st Century and added the skills of teaching students the importance of differentiating between copyrighted material and other information which might be in the public domain.

I notice the Graded School from Sao Paulo produced the detailed flow chart on copyright, so it seems fair to assume that in Sao Paulo, the idea of copyright has some support.  I am less certain of how well copyright is respected in China and other locales.  Still we are teaching students for global citizenship, and that seems like a pretty solid idea, there certainly is a place for teaching about copyright.

One of the central concepts behind media literacy is the push to have students create content.  The Copyright Flowchart mentions this at the top and the article entitled, “Copyright Questions and Answers about iTunes, Podcasts, and Fair Use” encouraged student creation of content as a means for teaching correct copyright protocols. The “New Media Literacies” listed the four “c’s” as being central (create, circulate, collaborate, connect).  Finally, the “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture” mentioned that the “haves” are student who are using computers to create new content.

I think we add teaching how to follow copyright, but it is down the list a bit.  The skills I would encourage first are creating and connecting.

 

C2W2: Online Privacy…Not so Much…

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 8.21.56 AMDoes privacy exist online?  I think the answer to that question is no.  Even if you were to blog and share it with no one, I am not sure that means that your thoughts can’t be unearthed by someone who has superior sleuthing skills in the electronic area.

Last night I was struggling to organize my thoughts around the topic of privacy when my wife called me in to watch a 60 Minutes piece entitled, “Hacking Your Phone“.  It seems that my cell phone is anything but secure and that my cell phone can be a window into my whole electronic life.

I generally don’t worry about my privacy too much, but the 60 Minutes piece was disturbing on two fronts.  First, it seems that there are times when the government is trying to get into my phone.  According to the article, when you get near some secure government buildings there are people in there who are trying hack into your phone.  This isn’t really how I envision my tax dollars being spent.

My second take away from the 60 Minutes piece of phone security is that I would now be very reluctant to check my bank balance using my phone.  It seems like it is pretty easy for people who have the correct hardware to find out a ton of information about me.  Needless to say, none of us want to be cleaned out financially by some hacker, and it was upsetting to see just how easy it is.

The readings on privacy reinforce the need to have some solid plans in place to teach our students about the realities of life online.  The article, “Job hunting? Take a close look at your Facebook page” encouraged us to examine our digital footprint with a look toward keeping an eye out for too much religious discussion, alcohol use, violent or illegal activity, foul language, and the oldie-but-goodie, complaining about the boss.  These all seem like important components to include in a lesson about digital footprint.  The only idea here that struck a cord was the idea of watching the over use of low, informal English, which I am guilty of, especially when looking at political matters.

The article, “The Myth of Online Predators” was reassuring in two ways.  First the author presented some numbers that show that predatory behavior online is not nearly as prevalent as we might think.  More importantly it was informative to read that chat rooms are the real dangerous places for students to avoid, especially chat rooms were the topic wanders into sex.  This seems like very valuable information to have and to pass on to students and parents.

So it doesn’t seem to me that one should ever expect “privacy” when you are online.  There are just too many ways for others to find and share your thoughts that it is probably best to operate as if every word you write is public information.  The value in this observation is that this idea then becomes a useful theme to reiterate when teaching students about their digital footprints.

 

 

 

C2W1: Digital Footprints…Time to Thin the Herd…

Some rights reserved by Nieve44/Luz
Some rights reserved by Nieve44/Luz

I can’t fathom being an international educator and not having a “digital footprint”.  In this day and age, I just don’t think it would be possible.  Certainly an international school would not want to communicate with me via snail mail, although it does make one wonder what the hiring process was like 25 years ago.  I would imagine that the timeline took quite a bit longer than it does today.

Question #2 has to do with would my digital footprint “help” or “hurt” me in my quest to earn a position at an international school.  Here I would have to say that my digital footprint doesn’t hurt me, but it doesn’t help me either.  I think a quick scan of my Facebook reveals pictures of my family, political rants of my friends, and assorted nonsense from former students and everyone else…Nothing damning, but then I am 59 and the damning events of my life happened before digital phones, cameras, and the lot.  The same is true with Instagram, although I did find this gem

URL not used to protect the idea of this person.
URL not used to protect the idea of this person.

last week.  The photograph of a bowl of marijuana would certainly be the type of conversation with students.  The fact that this picture can be found in my Instagram account probably doesn’t score positive points for me.  It suggests that I need to do a better job of filtering my digital footprint.

Will Richardson worried that his daughter “won’t be Googled well” in the “Digitally Speaking” article called, “Digital Footprints” from Educational Leadership.  I have not created a digital footprint that highlights my love of cycling, birding, or photograph.  Bits and pieces of those items are there, but my interests are buried underneath a pile of political rants from a college roommate, and 1000 posts of vacation photos and baby shots from my friends and relatives.  Not exactly putting my best foot forward here.

Step One in creating a positive digital footprint would be to thin the herd on who I follow.  Step Two would be to be more active in posting the type of pictures I would like to have future employers see when they are considering me for a position.

Finally, how would I go about teaching the sixth graders in my classroom to create a positive digital footprint?  I think sixth graders are an ideal age to begin to have this conversation.  I know that many students post a great deal of information on

Some rights reserved
Some rights reserved

Instagram and other media.  The article “How You’re Unknowingly Embarrassing Yourself Online” had some excellent examples of poor choices people have made in posting.  This would be a fun part of the lesson for students.  I think they would be all over the idea of finding examples of people who had made poor digital footprint choices.

I also know some of the boys I teach aren’t really concerned yet with the digital footprint, college admissions counselors, or future employers.  I can see these boys blowing through the stop sign, but these are the type of messages that need to be repeated often.  It is like Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink.  All we want is for our students to think a minute before posting.   Hopefully as students move closer to the college years they will begin to hear the wisdom of being careful about what they post, and about whom they follow.

Next year I can’t wait to include “Creating Your Digital Footprint” to our “Technology workshop” at the start of the school year.  Great fun.

 

C1: Final Project: The Dakota Conflict of 1862 – Byron Rice

Welcome.  I teach Minnesota history to sixth graders.  We use the Northern Lights textbook from the Minnesota Historical Society as our default text, but in this lesson I am hoping to go into more detail than NL provides.  We will begin this unit of study after our spring break in March.

In 1862 the federal governments payments for lands they had acquired in the Traverse des Sioux treaty was very late – months late.  The Dakota were starving, and store owners on Dakota reservations had quit extending credit for food and necessities.  A misstep at a chicken coop led to killing of Euro-American settlers and the retaliations from both sides.  The army showed up, calmed the situation and arrested 392 Dakota, 303 of which were sentenced to death.  President Lincoln commuted the sentences of all but 38 Dakota.  In Shakopee, Minnesota the largest mass execution in U.S. history was held on December 26, 1862, when all 38 were  hung.  Did this story have to turn out this way?

My goals are for sixth graders to know what happened, and to identify the political pressures that were on all the different actors in the Conflict.  So far in our study of Minnesota history it seems like some of the people we have studied where incredibility shallow and self-serving greed heads (please see Henry Sibley).  I am also interested if the Conflict was unavoidable because of differing world views from the immigrants and the Dakota, or could this train wreck have been avoided?

How does this unit of study reflect my learning in Course One?  Crickets…..more crickets…Hmmm, well we read a lot about networking and making connections.  Unfortunately, my lesson doesn’t have any of that, yet.  I did use the ISTE standards when I was designing the research piece.  I also have the final project being web based so that it is our there for a larger audience to read.  I have students using Google docs and collaborating on the writing parts of the project, but on the grand scheme of using technology for the 21st century, I don’t feel like I am “pushing the envelope”.

The most powerful part of this exercise was following the Wiggins Understanding by Design model on my own.  We use this model at school, but often those decisions are made by a committee.  This is the first time I have ever thought up Essential Questions on my own, and it took me a while, but I am pleased with the results.

C1W5: Twitter as a Link & as a History Book…

How is technology changing the learning landscape?

  1. Kim Cofino Post on Twitter in the classroom.
    Kim Cofino Post on Twitter in the classroom.

    For me, the number one benefit of technology is the connections to other educators.  For example, today I saw this tweet from  KIm Cofino about an article regarding second grade teacher who created a Twitter and Instagram account for her class, and after a fashion the teacher turned over control of her class’s social media to her students.  This example works in a couple of ways.  First, Twitter is a great professional development tool.  I rarely tweet, but I love to read scan and read what other teachers are doing.  I think the sixth graders I teach would love to be in charge of the classroom account and report on what we are learning, and more importantly, I bet it would raise the level of their game.  The Dan Meyer video for this week was another great example of sharing a brilliant idea.  How do we develop mathematical thinking in students?  In my case, how can we get students to think like historians?

  2. First tweets from Abbottabad.
    First tweets from Abbottabad.

    Twitter is the first draft of history.  I was first pulled into Twitter when the United States attacked and killed Osama Bin Laden.  Somewhere I read that the event had been tweeted by someone down the block.  That gentlemen reported seeing helicopters in the middle of the night.  While his tweets proved to be less than accurate – his tweets were the first version of what was happening.  There are several examples of where the story that appears on Twitter has been wrong by those who first tweeted an event, so it is valuable to add this to the mix when we are having our Digital Citizenship introduction.

  3. I begin class with a Google Presentation that has our plans for the day, homework, and some pictures from the day’s news papers.  My students are eager for class participation points, and they have become more adept at using Google to find out who is in the news.  This connects to the reading we had that wrote about how technology has a social function and it goes all the way to “geeking out” – where students are seeking out experts for help in pursuing an interest in some topic.  I love that when there is a slow moment in my class, I can count on Fiona to be exploring animae, Xavier is looking at football cards, and Loti is taking pictures of herself with PhotoBooth.  None of my students are at the “geeking out” level of exploration, but all of them have used technology to dive deeper into a subject that is near and dear to their heart.
  4. The next horizon for my class is to make contact with the outside world.  We don’t blog, tweet, or post on Instagram just yet, but we are just starting.  As we study different topics during the fourth quarter, I look forward to connecting my students with others around the globe.  How is the American Civil War taught in Amsterdam?  What if we want to know about the impact of rifles at Gettysburg — who can we FaceTime about that?  I can’t wait to learn more about developing links and connections to other schools and experts to help us learn more.  What a great way to learn that other people may see an event through different lenses than our common narrative.

 

C1W4: Buddy Miles and the American Civil War

Drummer Buddy Miles care of Copyright BUDDY MILES LITERARY TRUST
Drummer Buddy Miles care of Copyright BUDDY MILES LITERARY TRUST

First a nod to Buddy Miles and “Them Changes“.  Okay, now that the sixties are out of the way, let’s kick around the idea of changing how I teach…

How am I changing what I do?   (Short answer: I am planning to change my next unit of study, with the assistance of my students.  For the longer take, read on…)

When I first read Mark Prensky’s “Shaping Tech for the Classroom” I wrote down, “this is the second reading that has mentioned giving students a say in the curricula.”  Mark wrote that lesson plans will only be considered new and more meaningful when, “kids have a big say in the creation.”  In the “Living and Learning” article they also liked the idea of students contributing to the design of a class writing, “we feel it is crucial to listen carefully to them and learn from their experiences of growing up.” So for the past few weeks I have been kicking around the idea of how invite my students into the discussion of what should we learn.

In our curriculum the next hill to climb is the American Civil War (ACW).  This morning as I was reading the thoughts of Chairmen Ben I have started to consider taking a new approach.  Ben wrote, “Who controls the learning?” and right now that has been the teachers, the history department, and practically anyone but a twelve year old.  My first thought was to ask students on Monday morning what they would want to study, but that doesn’t work, because I don’t think most of my sixth graders could pull the Civil War out of a police lineup.  So I think I am going to have a brief overview of the event, and then ask students to find an area where they can dive in and go deep for a few days.

Having students make some decisions about might interest them seems to follow the “TRUDACOT” guideline of integrating technology “within student agency.” (“TRUDACOT” being a nominee for worst acronym ever 2015).  So my current thinking is to present students with the background facts about the American Civil War and then ask them whether they feel this event has any bearing on their lives today?  (I am hoping they will say -“Yes!”).  If they do show an interest in learning more about the ACW then I want to have some guidelines like:

  • You need to collaborate with someone.
  • You need to evaluate at least two sources.
  • You need to be able to bullet point notes in your own words. (Not really a tech skill)
  • And you need to present your findings using Google Presentation, Sites, or some other multimedia way (iMovie)
  • Bonus Points: If you can make contact with an expert in your field of study.

This leaves me with a couple of goals unattained.  When I went to college (back in the 1800’s) I was a psychology major and thus I was never schooled in the art of thinking as a historian.  Some of my colleagues in the Upper School (grades 9-12) pride themselves on constructing lessons where students are able to “overcome the outcome,” or think like the people of the time thought and not as we do now.  I also don’t have an empathetic understanding in my current plan, but perhaps my field of study during this unit can be to develop one of these two.

Having made a short story too long, I am making changes in how I teach.  The jury is still out on how we will do with meaningful integration of technology.  Details to follow.

*****

Arizona Technology Integration Matrix  Another helpful tool for identifying to use technology and have students answering higher order questions.

C1W3: Political Stew, Toni Stone, and Learning New Habits…

This week I have been stewing about how best to design a lesson that uses technology in a meaningful way.  After reviewing the standards on the ISTE site I see several ways to meet the standards.  In 2009 the Department of Education for the State of Michigan put out some more specific suggestions about how to use technology and these were very helpful.  First the Michigan standards are one step more practical, or less theoretical than the ISTE points and so it is a bit easier to see how I might incorporate these new uses of technology into my curriculum.  I am a little hamstrung in that I teach the same class as two other people, and there is some reluctance on the part of others to jump into new technologies if it means lots of additional time.  This is not a huge hurdle to overcome; I just need to be able to demonstrate the benefit of a new approach and then be willing to show how we can do it.

This week we reading the, “Geeking Out” section from Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project”.  I love the idea of middle school students being so interested in a topic that they begin to seek out experts to help learn more about what they want to do.  At our school, I notice that the students who in participating in the Science Fair seem to regularly be getting in touch with experts to help further their understanding of a topic and to add credibility to their solution to a problem they have taken on.  Making connections with experts, is one of the areas of technology that most excites me.  In the last two weeks I had a student researching Toni Stone, who was the first women who played in the Negro Leagues for the Twin Cities

First women to play professional baseball.
First women to play professional baseball.

Colored Giants.  One of my students knew that in 1953 Ms. Stone had gotten a hit off a famous pitcher, but she didn’t know who the pitcher was.  I had her contact the Negro League Hall of Fame, and after several tries we learned that Toni Stone faced Satchel Paige. [Embarrassing footnote: I just read the page for Toni Stone at The Society for American Baseball Research website and they cast some serious doubt about whether this match-up ever happened….] – I hate it when facts get in the way of a good story…Short story that is now too long, I like the idea of students learning to make connections with the outside world as they explore topics of interest.

 

When I think about how to embed meaningful uses of technology, it seems to me that I need to revamp how I plan lessons.  If I were to stick with the Wiggins “Backward Design” model, where you write down the skills students are to acquire, and I keep a copy of the ISTE benchmarks at hand along with the multicultural goals [if you are interested, hit the link and I will give you permission to view] we have for the course.  If I can become more self-disciplined at referring to those two core documents, then I should begin to make some serious steps to improving how I use technology.