EC&I 832, Major Project

Photosharing Apps – Avenue for Digital Citizenship Education?

The first question I have used to guide my major project work is:

What does research say about photosharing apps and their value in educating students about digital citizenship and helping them to become positive, contributing digital citizens?

While I did find some sources one would consider research, I am using a lot of information I have collected from educators, specialists and organizations who have written articles, blog posts and guides to shed some light on this topic.  One of my other guiding questions is based on my own personal thoughts and observations, so this post will share some of the thoughts and observations of others in field.

By Mulhallsue (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There are many issues addressed in the readings I did, both for and against having social media in the classroom at all.  I am not going to discuss those in depth, other than the privacy concerns to be considered, which will be in another post.  However, in her blog article in Edutopia, Vicki Davis addresses a concern by some teachers that by using social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat in the classroom, students will be using them socially when teachers are trying to teach. She says we can’t mistake “social media for socializing” – just as kids talking while working in groups is different than talking while they are hanging out.  In the article How to Use Social Media as a Learning Toolthey echo a point I read repeatedly.  Using social media in the classroom to teach digital citizenship and have students learn 21st Century skills, helps bridge a gap that exists between students who have access to technology at home and those who do not.  These students will not be left behind when it comes to interacting appropriately with these tools.

In the New York Times article, The Secret Social Media Lives of Teenagers, they discuss the Harvard students who had their admission offers rescinded after sharing offensive images within what they thought was a private Facebook group chat. I found this article very pertinent to my project, even though they were on Facebook and not Snapchat, Instagram or PicCollage. The article speaks about youth (and adults, sometimes) oversharing photos, videos and memes and how this can lead to issues.  The privacy they think they have may not be reliable.  They spoke of the need for adults (educators) “to shift the conversation around teen’s social media use away from a fear of getting caught and more toward healthy socialization, effective self-regulation and overall safety“.  Digital citizenship education, right?  Experiences like this demonstrate that young intelligent people are leaving school without an understanding of what sharing and liking inappropriate photos and videos in their supposedly “safe” bubble could mean for them.  What does a positive, healthy, contributing digital citizen look like?

The Educator’s Guide to Social Media by Connect Safely has a very comprehensive look at social media in the classroom as well as considerations for educators’ own personal use. They suggest the two general rules of “think before you post” and “be kind and respectful” generally cover the basics of digital citizenship in social media, but acknowledge it is a bit more complicated than that.  Digital citizenship using tools like Snapchat and Instagram should be woven into the entire curriculum, not just during specific, dedicated time. They suggest students do not distinguish between their digital lives and the rest of their lives, so knowing how to use digital tools safely is just literacy.  Integrate it into everything we teach and take advantage of digital teachable moments.  We don’t have to be teaching about the “Internet” to teach students to be responsible for what they post online and to think critically about evaluating sources and information.

The last article I want to reference is one by Kayla Delzer.  Her students run her Instagram and Twitter accounts.  They do not use Snapchat, but her students are in second grade, and this article is now a couple of years old.  Perhaps she felt they were not quite ready for that one! She uses gradual release of responsibility, as she does in other subject areas, to get her students ready with regard to digital citizenship and posting on social media. She does some lessons first, gives them a digital citizenship bootcamp, and has them pass seven different rules before becoming the “instagrammer” of the day.  Parents have to come in for a one evening bootcamp too where the students are the teachers, getting their parents all set up and ready to participate. She feels it is important for them to develop their digital footprint in a genuine environment.  These social media, photosharing tools, are the perfect way for her students to do this and learn about being positive, contributing digital citizens.

Are their any drawbacks to photosharing apps as a way to educate students about digital citizenship? The arguments go both ways to a point.  However, the arguments against these apps in the classroom seem to be more about privacy concerns rather than the validity and benefit of using them for student learning.  I am still investigating sources.  I will compare these ideas with my own personal opinions when I discuss guiding question #2 – my own observations!

Photo Credit: coreeducation Flickr via Compfight cc

EC&I 832, Major Project

My App Adventure is Still Going!

If any of you read my initial posts about my project and took any kind of interest, you may have been wondering if Snapchat and Instagram had gotten the better of me.  What happened to her? I bet she couldn’t keep up with the clever captions, cutesy filters and disappearing images. Well, not so.  I am still here!  For reasons I will not bore you with, I have not been able to blog as I normally would about the progress I have been making.  However, I have been doing a lot of work on my dive into Snapchat, Instagram and PicCollage.  I will be doing a lot of blog posting over the next while, with all of the updates I wasn’t able to do.  Therefore, if you are interested in my progress, it will be a little bit like Netflix binge-watching…but maybe not as entertaining.

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I decided fairly early on, that my research into the three apps would focus around four guiding questions, and I have stuck to that.  I have done quite a bit of research into what others have to say around three of the four questions which I will expand on in my coming posts – one post for each question and my progress so far.  Truthfully, I have found very little about PicCollage, which I suspected would be the case, so my project will focus primarily on Snapchat and Instagram.

Despite the popularity of these apps, there are still so many opposing opinions as to their value in education and whether or not they have a place in the classroom.  Our recent conversations about media literacy had me considering all I have been learning regarding photosharing apps and the literacy skills needed to use them.  Added to my research and my own experiences using the technology, our class content is adding to my project.  Thank you to everyone who is sharing fantastic readings and personal perspectives.

Because I am not in a regular classroom/school setting, I have also decided to reach out to some of my colleagues who are implementing our BYOD initiative or who specialize in literacy instruction.  I am going to ask them their thoughts surrounding two of my guiding questions – Digital Citizenship question #2 and Media Literacy question #1.

My next posts will each share where I am so far with one of my guiding questions. If you are using any of these apps and you wish to join the conversation, I would be happy to hear your perspectives.  My guiding questions can be seen in my February 11th post!

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EC&I 832

No Longer Just the Three “Rs”

There was a time when reading, writing and mathematics were the three big cornerstones on which we determined if students could be considered literate.  While there is still some truth in that, literacy today is so much more.  Literacy is how we make meaning of, comprehend and think critically about our world.  Students need to be “multi-literate” to do that effectively.  What does that mean?  It means in order for students to communicate and represent meaning, they have to be able to do so from one context to another.  They have to add to the modes of reading and writing with other modes – numeracy, visual, media, digital, physical… As educators, we have to be mindful of the skills students will need to be active participants, using these various literacies to critically understand and examine their world.

The readings and videos we focused on this past week were in answer to the question, “What does it mean to be media literate in today’s world?”.  I don’t think being media literate is a lot different from other forms of literacy.  In one way or another, the videos and articles all determined that being media literate means understanding and thinking critically about what we see, hear, and read in the media.  I believe this is true of any form of literacy.  For example, with visual literacy, we work to understand what we see, and use critical thinking skills to ask questions and dig deep to determine if our interpretations and perceptions are correct.  Teaching comprehension and critical thinking are incredibly important to helping students become truly literate, no matter the mode they are working within.

By KellyLawless (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Despite the underlying similarities among literacies, there were some great points made by my classmates in their videos which I think highlighted a few particular aspects of media literacy that are important to keep in mind.  In her video, Dani spoke of intuitive technology and learning.  Through their use of online and social media, students have intuitively picked up cues and strategies for making meaning in a digital environment. That does not mean we don’t have to teach them (media/digital) literacy skills, but it does mean that they have learned to navigate some things on their own.  However, we can’t assume this means they are critically thinking. In her video, Jaque used a definition from the Ontario Ministry of Education which supports this.  It states that being media literate doesn’t mean students should not watch media, but instead, they should watch it carefully and think about it critically.

Another point I want to highlight was by Luke. In his video, Luke made a comment that reminded me that when it comes to media literacy (and writing, visual and other modes as well), we are not only having students deconstruct media, but constructing it as well.  Much of the focus on helping students become literate is on what they read and see, but not so much about what they create.  Even in the materials I read for my research into Fake News, it was all about consuming media, not creating it.  Literacy skills and critically thinking about their own work are very important for students as well.

What does it mean to be literate today?  My short answer – the ability to comprehend and to think critically.   What do you think?

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EC&I 832

Digital Citizenship – What is our responsibility?

In “Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools”,  Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship are divided into three categories – respect, educate and protect.  Each of these represent an area of a student’s online education that we, as educators need to consciously make an effort to teach. I believe many teachers are doing this, and well, but I also believe that just as many still are not. I think with the broadening of BYOD in many school divisions and the increased focus on the need for positive digital citizenship education, however, the tide is turning.  More school divisions, schools and therefore, teachers, are beginning to pay digital citizenship education more than lip service.

I agree both with “Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools” and with Mike Ribble in the article shared by Wendy, when they say that this should not be taught as one-off lessons or presentations. This is not the way for students to really learn citizenship – they need to internalize these behaviours by putting them into regular, everyday use. There is a place for digital citizenship in every curriculum, a chance for students to learn and practice how to protect themselves online and how to be thoughtful and productive online contributors.  The article by Kristen Hicks that was shared by Megan, gave some categories that could be included in our digital citizenship “curriculum” to work along side our provincial document.

Our conversation with Patrick Maze was eye-opening for me. It demonstrated that there were a lot of grey areas for us, as educated, professional teachers regarding digital citizenship.  What could/should we post online? Where are the lines between our personal and professional lives?  How do our online identities and how we conduct ourselves online influence our careers and how we are viewed by those we serve?  If we had that many questions and uncertainties about this, how can we expect our students to know the boundaries?  How are they expected to navigate the “grey areas”?  All the more reason to be having conversations and be teaching about digital citizenship from kindergarten through grade 12. This just gets more complicated as we get older.

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I am not currently teaching in a school, but my school division does have policies and procedures related to this topic.  We have policies ensuring safe and welcoming school communities, free from harassment, bullying and violence – cyberbullying is specifically mentioned and defined. Now that we have BYOD in our division, we also have an official policy and procedures on student use of personal electronic devices.  These are all necessary, official pieces that must be in place.  However, I am not sure if the actual, daily practice of digital citizenship education is effectively happening division-wide.  We have BYOD catalyst teachers representing every school who have received some special training and are meant to bring that training back and work with their teachers.  This is still fairly new, so we will have to evaluate how effective it has been.

I look forward to us (as a profession) finding a way to support teaching more digital citizenship and helping teachers and students realize that there is a difference between knowing how to use a device and being a strong, safe and productive digital citizen.

Photo Credit: myhayah Flickr via Compfight cc

EC&I 832

My Meager Digital Identity

If I were to Google myself right now, I would find a lot of hits for the name “Regan Williams”, but very few of them would be about me.  I have given thought to my digital identity (or lack thereof) before now, but since beginning this course, it strikes me how truly limited my online presence actually is.  Considering some of the technology roles I once held in my teaching positions, this should be surprising, but when I look back, it isn’t.  I think I know the reasons why.

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I believe there are two main reasons, or really, excuses, for not being more connected and establishing my digital identity. The first is the excuse of time.  I have always been busy and over-scheduled.  I used to let that be a reason for not joining Facebook or Twitter, for remaining removed and not establishing my place in the digital world. I have set up wikis, blogs and other means of being connected in the past, all with the intention of connecting me, my students, my libraries…whatever.  The trouble is, I let other things become my priorities, and I did not follow through.  I have always read others’ online contributions and articles, but have been content to remain a consumer.  Years ago, I refused to join Facebook claiming that I would either end up ignoring it or be on it all the time – time I didn’t have. I joined when my daughter was 13 and asked if she could join and have an account.  I knew I had to get with it!  I have managed it just fine.

My second excuse, I think, has always been a bit of fear. In Stacey’s video, she talked about the intersecting of our personal and professional lives as teachers, and how we face the challenge of being professionals all the time.  Jessica brought up the idea that many people have different profiles and versions of themselves online, just as we do in real life.  As an educator, I have always been incredibly aware of everything I post, like, share or comment on.  Often, I refrain from commenting on or liking things I feel strongly about simply because I am already considering all of the possible implications of having my own opinion!  Can teachers have more than one persona?  I am not sure if anyone cares that their bank manager drinks beer at the football game or that their hairstylist belongs to a particular political party…but I have always felt like I need to keep so much of myself private from my student/parent world.  Maybe I don’t.  Maybe that is a part of the generation I come from…

Photo Credit: JcGreg Solutions Flickr via Compfight cc

But I am changing.  Even before this course, I was starting to become a more active participant in my own online life. I plan to continue to build my digital identity although it will likely remain primarily professional.  I have Facebook for family and friends, but otherwise, at least for now, I will likely pursue my professional interests outside of that.  I think it will also be important for me to bring that learning and positive use of the digital world to the teachers and students that I currently work with because I am in a position to do so.  How do we teach students to build identities they can be proud of?

As I read the articles, watched the videos and listened to our class discussion regarding identity, I thought a lot about my own children.  As I have mentioned before, I have two teenagers, one turning 19 next month!  We have talked A LOT about digital citizenship, online safety, being critical readers online, etc. in our home.  When I think about digital identity, however, I worry that I have not encouraged my children in that way.  They have certainly been safe and cautious, but maybe too cautious?  If they Googled themselves, I am not sure a lot will show up for them either.  Is that good in today’s world?  My oldest daughter is in university.  When she enters the world of work in a few years, what will her perspective employers expect to see?  I have not had much of an identity myself, so what I have I helped them to build?  It goes both ways, I think.  Others won’t find the negative, hurtful images and regretful posts that will come back to haunt my children, but is finding nothing a good thing?

The following short video from Common Sense Media features a small panel of teenagers discussing their online identities and how they differ from their face-to-face personas and interactions.  It reinforces several of the articles we read and our class discussion about public identities vs private ones.

When we are teaching students about digital identity in a changing world I think we have to consider it from a couple of perspectives. Not only building a positive digital identity versus negative, but also creating a significant digital identity versus a meager or non-existent one.


EC&I 832, Major Project

Photosharing and Digital Citizenship

This is my second post this week regarding my major project.  We were asked to reflect on how our projects relate to one or more of the nine elements of digital citizenship.  My first post was about reflecting on where I was at in the process, of figuring out my direction and trying to answer the questions I had asked of myself when beginning my project.  This post is about reflecting on the past week’s question.

As I spoke of in my previous post, I am concentrating on photosharing apps and examining them from both a digital citizenship and a media or information literacy perspective.  When I look at Ribble’s Nine Elements, I can see my project relating to several of these.  In particular, I think the following elements will be especially relevant:

Digital Communication: Today’s digital communication options allow us the opportunity to keep in 

constant communication and collaborate with anyone at any time and in any location.  According to the Digital Citizenship Website, however, many users haven’t been taught how to make appropriate decisions when faced with so many options in the method and means in which they communicate with one another. I plan to look at the literacy skills needed to communicate skillfully using photosharing apps as well as whether these apps can be used in ways to help students communicate in a positive way online.

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Digital Etiquette:  Often, apps like Snapchat and Instagram are banned in classrooms because there is fear that there may not be rules or regulations that can govern their appropriate use. What about when students are not at school?  I think these types of photosharing/social media applications may allow us a platform to teach students digital etiquette – at least that is what I am trying to find out. Do they have educational value in this regard?

Digital Literacy: How students learn and comprehend in a digital society is important. I feel they are being called upon to access different literacy skills to make meaning of information – pictures, captions, open floodgates of facts and information… My project is examining if photosharing apps and communicating in a world of pictures and captions requires us to infer and make meaning in different ways.  Should educators be considering how they are approaching digital literacy skills?

As I was reading articles and watching videos about digital citizenship, I found many other connections to my project in addition to these three areas.  As I go further into my research and practice with these apps, I am sure I will continue to develop more and more connections to the elements digital citizenship.

EC&I 832, Major Project

Digging in…

I am a few weeks into my social media immersion. I have been a regular Facebook and intermittent Twitter user for a long time, but now my footprint is definitely bigger. For my major project, I was initially looking at 4 apps, but I dropped Duolingo to focus exclusively on photosharing apps. I have been using Instagram, Snapchat, and to a lesser degree, PicCollage. A couple of weeks ago, I came up with some guiding questions, which I have listed below. These have been the focus of the research I have been doing, as well as what I keep in my mind when interacting with and learning the ins and outs of the apps.

1) What does research say about photosharing apps and their value in educating students about digital citizenship and helping them to become positive, contributing digital citizens?

2) What do my observations of how this type of media is used and what I can do while using it, tell me about its value in teaching digital citizenship? Does it have educational value or potential rigour?

3) What privacy and usage considerations/implications do these apps present to students and teachers?

1) Any app, but particularly those that rely on visuals, chats and quick captions, potentially require a different set of literacy skills to allow students to communicate effectively and to make meaning of what they see. Is any of this media calling on students to comprehend or communicate in ways we do not traditionally teach? Should this impact or shift our literacy instruction given how widely these apps are used? In what ways?

I have been reading articles on media literacy in addition to making my own notes about what skills I feel I have been using to read and make meaning of others’ messages, as well as the thought processes I have been using before I make a post of my own. (Probably a lot more than any student ever does!!)  I also have been looking at some of the research done by Common Sense Media, Media Smarts and others with regard to digital citizenship and privacy.  In my next post, I will share some article links that I am finding most helpful.

I have a lot more to do – I still have more to explore with regard to pedagogy.  Right now, to be honest, I am swimming in a sea of information but hopefully, if I keep my eye on my guiding questions, I can bring it all together as I originally envisioned!  Stay tuned.

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