Monthly Archive: April 2019

Privacy and Participation

Participating in games

When reading about transparency in Confronting the Challenges in Participatory Culture: I connected to my students and thought about the topic of games, and how students are concerned with beating the game, not always using it as a way to learn. An example of this could be found in a variety of applications that teach math and reading. When given multiple options in Sushi Monster the students simply try to enter all of them as fast as possible to complete it, not thinking deeply about the problem given and trying to solve it before entering their answer. Instead, they play with permutations until they get it right. When using some reading apps such as Epic and RAZ kids, the students simply scroll through the pages at a rapid pace without engaging with the text to simply try and get stars for the most books read. Many of these apps have systems for teachers to monitor the activity and time spent on each problem to help engage in follow up discussions but really, what is the point? 

Photo by Emil Bruckner on Unsplash

How can we bridge the gap between playing to win in many of their online social activities and at the same time switch to active learning through games? Can we slow them down to think carefully, read deeply and understand that the game in the classroom serves a different purpose than their games at home? Using applications in the classroom is not about speed, we have to slow down to dive deeper, make connection, and engage in meaningful reflections for learning to take place. Through structured dialogue and thoughtful reflection activities about their participation in online activities can we have more transparent learning through games? 

Connecting skills and experiences

Again, this article connects heavily to the Approaches to Learning in the IB. Connecting social skills and research skills to technology are seamless ways of integrating skills and information literacy in the classroom. I think that my post about play and the conversations that we had as a class are a great introduction to a unit on social responsibility and privacy protection. I think that this process will help me to provoke ideas and tune in to a unit plan about digital citizenship and information literacy.  A structured conversation is like we had in Unit 4 is a great way to pre-assess student understandings about their online safety and privacy and by documenting their ideas we will have something to connect to in further lessons and come back to see how their thinking has changed. 

This week’s essential understandings and questions helped me to further my ideas by facilitating conversations and teaching lessons about privacy and authentic connections online in an upper elementary class.  My students don’t connect much with the outside world in a school setting. Our learning journals are closed to their families and the class, their social media accounts are private, and their online social gaming is kept among friends. That being said, some of them have still had experiences that create a need for more instruction on what actions they need to take when online etiquette is breached and they receive spam, rude messages from peers, or search something with incorrect terms and get inappropriate results. Most of them know what to do already, but as teachers, we need to remain vigilant in providing opportunities to provide instruction, counselling, and to facilitate experiences and role-play situations that help them to overcome negativity and help themselves and each other to navigate safely.  My school is currently working updating their acceptable use policy which will hopefully provide a more concrete set of expectations to protect student privacy and online safety while still providing rich online learning experiences, which is turning out to be a fine balance.  

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Media Literacy

We begin our school year with a Unit of Inquiry on media literacy and how media influences thinking and behaviour. Students go through advertisements in a variety of print and digital sources and take them apart to learn about creating their own examples. This is done with the hope of learning about how easily we can be swayed towards consuming media and understanding what to look for when you are exposed to advertisements in the world around you on a constant basis. Some of the topics outlined in the NY times privacy project are touched upon to help facilitate discussions about privacy, how we perceive media, and how we are entertained and more importantly, the purpose of the entertainment. How capitalism betrayed privacy has some interesting points that connect to our unit about how the choices we make are our power to promote privacy and reward companies that respect it. How can I use this next year in my class to help students consider their choices? 

Photo by Rock’n Roll Monkey on Unsplash

A story that comes to mind about digital citizenship, privacy, and connecting online is from my first years of teaching primary school with email and 1-2 devices. Despite the lessons on responsibility, digital citizenship, connecting to others and privacy all of a sudden some students were sending emails containing poop emojis and hacking into each other’s RAZ kids account and using the points to buy pink hats and clothes for their robot avatars (you can imagine the outcries from boys who had worked so hard reading books, devastating!). This was my first foray into the world of digital citizenship and how I reacted to these situations and the conversations and consequences that resulted were valuable learning experiences even though they were reactive and not pro-active.

Recently my students have been interested in contacting individuals and finding stories about our current Unit of Inquiry about migration. I have been looking into ways to use Twitter and other social media to contact people to help them understand how migration affects individuals and communities by finding real-world examples of journeys. We have been composing messages together on my accounts that I have set up for the class, and are waiting for responses. I hope that modelling appropriate behaviour when trying to reach out to strangers that my students can begin to see how to use the tools at their disposal to have authentic learning experiences facilitated by online action. After all, without teaching internet privacy, responsible online safety, and recognizing appropriate behaviour about online conversations our students could end up like some of these people.


The play finds a way

We had a great discussion in my classroom this week about communication. The students were very excited to share the plethora of ways that they communicate with each other and enjoyed relating stories of specific funny instances their communication failed as they were trying to concentrate on playing games and communicating with each other at the same time. My students are on the cusp of using social media, led by the girls in the class who all have just started using an Instagram and/or Snapchat account. They find this a fun way to communicate with each other using filters and pictures, again stressing the visual preference of my students. One of my more savvy students even uses Twitch and Discord as she enjoys playing games and talking to her friends at the same time. Many of the boys in my class enjoy using FaceTime or some other app on their TV (that they couldn’t name) to communicate with their friends in countries. they have lived in before.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

I wonder how this tech use would compare to a Grade Four class in a local school system?  Out of my fifteen students, eight have their own device at home or on them all the time they use to communicate. What many of them lamented on is that they are not always allowed to visit each other after school and ride their bikes to others houses to play and communicate face to face which they would prefer to do. They complained that they don’t have the same opportunities overseas as some of them had in their countries of origin. Even though Japan is a very safe country, the children in my class still have to navigate busy roads, bustling train stations, and that is a freedom many parents don’t want to risk yet. What is fantastic is that the students use technology to overcome this and still find a way to play with their friends. The majority of my class play online through different platforms that allow voice or typing interface, some even with video to communicate. 

Al of my conversation with my class highlighted the necessary play adaptations that students must make in an urban environment that doesn’t allow for the roving suburban and small-town bike gangs of children from my youth.  My phone was attached to the wall and you couldn’t move more than 2 meters away from it. There was no call waiting, display, and I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 25. If a line was busy you hopped on your bike and went around. We left the house when we wanted to play and went door to door looking for someone to play with and explored our neighbourhood natural areas to hang out. When we reached our teen years we had the freedom of cars to court each other and visit friends who lived beyond biking range. Through our conversation, my students demonstrated that they become fluent in a variety of technological methods to be social even though they are isolated in their own homes. To me, this is kind of sad, but also kind of awesome that play finds a way. I can picture them in 2-5 years being the teens that were interviewed in Wired’s article.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

My first degree was in cultural anthropology and Wired’s article was a fantastic insight into the cultural nuances of online teen life. What this article teaches me the most that students value and use this form of communication, it is a basic fact of life for most teens and probably younger students too. It also teaches me how I really need to up my Insta-game. Most of my Grade fours are on their iPhone right after they leave the building, sometimes as they are still in it. As teachers, we need to communicate with our students and understand how they communicate to facilitate effective teaching and learning. So understanding how students socialize and communicate is a big part of getting to know who we are teaching, and we need to know them before we can teach them. I also enjoyed reading about the unspoken etiquette of teens online including some of the emoji codes. Ahmed’s quote about trading his phone for a car signifies that although the teens may be experts in social media, it highlights the theory that social media is more of an adaptation to different situations and not always a choice. Just like when I was talking to my 10-year olds about the fortnight dance, they would rather go to a real concert, but don’t always have the freedom and means to do so. The idea of using Snapchat is so foreign to my generation, who all grew up with cars at 16. The more things change right? Even our early ancestors felt the need to communicate visually over thirty thousand years ago on the walls of caves.

Source: Giphy

You are what you post, I had a good giggle at Are You Literally What You Post? as I usually add a reaction GIFs and memes to my emails at work, I find it lightens the mood, gives my co-workers something to laugh at, and helps add context to the email. No, I am actually not Jeremiah Johnson nodding at someone as I agree, or the Most Interesting man alive when I ask people to donate fruit to the homeless shelter. But it does add another level of communication to the email, it helps your readers feel an added part, like adding an illustration to your work.  I love what he says about how communicating via gifs and meme can “Providing an external, visual reference for complex internal emotions.” because it connects so much with how students and younger people (and also adults) can find new ways to communicate sometimes difficult to verbalize feelings, and also why maybe so many of the students in my class choose platforms such as Instagram, Line, and Snapchat because you can add stickers, images, and filters to share your feelings in a creative way and maybe about something you don’t have the vocabulary for. 

How does all this affect my teaching? I mentioned before that understanding how our students communicate is vital to understanding them as people, and by understanding who they are we can learn to build relationships, and teaching is all about relationships. Furthermore, after conversations about the visual nature of communication, I have to continue teaching ways to regulate how they pay respect to where they find the images they wish to communicate with and find tools to help them customize and streamline how they share their learning in a visual way.