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?
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.
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?
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.