Tag Archives: social media tools in K-12

Twitter at the Board Table

Tonight I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a presentation to the WRDSB Trustees. The focus of the presentation was to provide in-servicing regarding the many diverse program opportunities and supports for secondary school students. Main goals included a demonstration of using social media tools in a classroom context and to showcase work from our Futures Forum Project.

@kimkeena provided a nice over view of many of our secondary program offerings, with a focus on eLearning and Futures Forum opportunities.

My role was to provide an explanation of Twitter in less than 5 minutes, then introduce a brief activity. Click here to view the slide deck of my Twitter explanation effort. Students were seated a various tables with our Trustees. After sharing their thoughts describing how learning in our Futures Forum classes was different from their experience in traditional classrooms, their thoughts were shared via Twitter using the hashtag #wrdsbtss.  I demonstrated a live Twitter feed using Twitterfall to capture and display tweets from the group.

Next, @kempscott demonstrated a Google Docs collaborative writing example. The evening closed with a student speaking about his experience in one of our alternative learning programs.

All in all, a great evening and wonderful opportunity to share our student learning experiences with our Trustees.

~ Mark

Teaching the Facebook Generation

I came across this post today via Twitter from @pmcash.

The article covers the use of social media tools with in Australian schools. Based on the article, the general approach seems to be cautious about allowing access. Concerns raised include safety, teacher awareness of how to use the tools and online relationships between teachers and students.

In my Board (WRDSB), we have been making great strides in moving forward with the use of social media tools. Facebook and Twitter (and other tools too) are open for use to support curriculum delivery. These tools offer incredible opportunities to connect, collaborate and access real world information and events in real time. Teachers are finding many exciting uses for these technologies within the classroom.

Currently, teachers are using Facebook for:

  • fan pages to distribute classroom resources to students (& parents), raise awareness of issues etc.
  • study and enrichment groups
  • online writing (poetry, character analysis, debates/discussion re current events etc.)
  • opportunities to share student work (within groups)
  • online galleries (artwork, student created music and videos etc.)
  • teacher feedback and peer review
  • ‘ask a question’ homework groups
  • casual writing for learning second languages
  • teaching digital citizenship in a real world context

It is critical that staff and students understand the importance of having their privacy and security settings set up appropriately. This must be part of the education process.

In terms of staff/student relationships in this environment, it is business as usual in many respects. Any online relationship must follow the same professional conduct as any situation whether it is in the classroom, on the playground, on a school trip or in an extra curricular situation. Relationships must be kept at the professional level. No one should put themselves in a risky situation.

These social media tools are powerful — we need to leverage their power to support curricular delivery, while educating staff/students about appropriate use and maintaining the required professionalism within these environments.

~ Mark

Up next: Demonstrating Twitter to our Trustee group on March 7th.


Facebook in the K12 Classroom

Connecting Facebook use to the Classroom

Over the last week, I had a number of opportunities to connect with teachers and have some dialogue about about using Facebook to support learning. Yes, Facebook is a social environment, but it has a huge untapped potential in the areas of engagement, community, sharing, current issues and writing.

I thought I would share this list of activities some of our teachers see as effective uses of Facebook within the learning environment. Many of these are already beginning to happen in our classrooms!

  • conversational writing (French in this case)
  • sharing of poetry writing
  • collaborative math homework support groups – students helping students with teacher support
  • peer review of student created movie trailers
  • short blog style writing posts with opportunity for peer review
  • creating a shared student art gallery
  • discussion of global issues
  • math/science challenge questions
  • use of class groups to provide frequent feedback and positive encouragement (linked to our recent PD session with Dr. D. Reeves)
  • use of teacher fan pages to connect with students re class schedules, homework assignments, test dates etc.
  • school/department pages as another way to connect readers to key events, related news items, promote new library offerings
  • a forum to discuss digital citizenship, online safety and prevention of bullying
  • analyse sample situations in terms of digital citizenship and character development goals

Congratulations to these teachers for their forward thinking about using the power of social media tools in new and powerful ways. I look forward to working with teachers and school Digital Citizenship committee to plan our journey forward.

~ Mark

Digital Citizenship Symposium

Tuesday March 30th, 2010 was a special day – the day our Board held their first Character Development/Digital Citizenship Symposium. The ballroom at St. George’s Hall was buzzing with energy. The room was filled with administrators, teachers and students. We were about to share a day focused on Digital Citizenship in the context of Character Development and ultimately moving the agenda forward.

Showcasing our Digital Citizenship poster, in the case a giant one by the registration desk.

The Character Development – Digital Citizenship Program

8:00-8:30 Registration

8:30-8:45 Welcome

8:45 -10:00 Keynote Speaker  – Jesse Brown

10:00 – 10:15 Break

10:15 – 11:00 Morning: Session A – 21st Century Tools of Learning

  • Option 1 Social Media – Networking Tools
  • Option 2 Equity of Access – Adaptive Technologies
  • Option 3 Digital Literacy and e-learning
  • Option 4 Tools for Student Engagement
  • Option 5 Multimedia Projects – Original Work

11:00 – 11:15 Break

11:15 – 12:00 Morning: Session B – Classroom Applications

  • Option 1 Digital Citizenship in the Classroom
  • Option 2 Bitstrips – Literacy
  • Option 3 Creating a Collaborative Online Community
  • Option 4 Digital Citizenship in the Classroom -Ministry Project
  • Option 5 Building Community – Blogging

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch

1:00 – 1:45  Session C ” Your Digital Footprint “ – Panel Discussion

1:45 – 2:00 Break

2:00 – 2:45 Afternoon : Session D ” Where do we go from here?”

  • Positive Impact of Technology – The New A.U.P.

2:45 -3:00 Day Program – Closing

Evening Session for Parents and Community members

6:45 – 7:00 Welcome

7:00 – 8:00 Keynote – Jesse Brown

Jesse Brown, owner of Bitstrips for Schools, recently licensed for use in Ontario schools and host of TVO podcast “Search Engine” kicked off the day with a keynote presentation that tackled three questions:

  • Do cell phones belong in classrooms?
  • Do teachers belong on Facebook?
  • Does the internet make us stupid?

After exploring the ins and outs of these questions, the day moved to the break out sessions. I attended Steve Rensink’s session on using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom and Susan Watt’s session on Digital Citizenship in the Classroom. Both sessions were well done and provided opportunities for all to extend their learning.

The afternoon’s activities started with a panel discussion, which I had the privilege of hosting. The panelists included two secondary school students, a teacher, an administrator and a business representative from Opentext.  The discussion started by allowing each panelist to present their views about how integrity, respect and social responsibility (3 of our 8 key character attributes) relate to Digital Citizenship. Picking up on key points made early in the discussion, I also explored two additional points with the panel:

  • Explain the important differences when interacting in a face to face situation vs. an online environment, and
  • With the ease of copying, sharing and distributing content, give your views on academic honesty.

The final session of the day was prepared by Harry Niezen, Ron Millar and Anita Brooks-Kirkland, our ICT consultants. Seating arrangements for this session grouped students with students, teachers with teachers and administrators with administrators to explore a series of questions focusing on the future of our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). Each table had a recorder so that the ideas and view points expressed could be captured, reviewed and considered in the rewrite of our AUP which will begin as a followup to this event.

All in all this was a successful event. The day closed with Susan Watt relating some classroom experiences from her point of view as our Technology Support Teacher and me announcing the launch of our new student email system and additional access to social media tools (including Facebook as of September) and our intent to embed their use in curriculum delivery. I think the highlight of the day for me was seeing all attendees – students, staff and administrators seated side by side and learning together. I feel fortunate to have been a part of this important WRDSB event. Congratulations to the event organizing team!!!

Additional Resources

Did you know? (4.0)


The day as captured on Twitter

Social Media policy framework reference

Event Wiki

~ Mark

K-12: Entrepreneurship 2.0

Further to my last blog post, Valuing Online Communities in the K-12 educational arena, I have been reflecting on the many possibilities of using social media tools to an advantage.

Mitch Joel discusses the five C’s of Entrepreneurship 2.0 in his book Six Pixels of Separation, and identifies them as follows:

  • Connecting
    • Connecting to Consumers
    • Building loyalty
    • Nurturing those connections to make more connections
    • Making money and growing
  • Creating
  • Conversations
  • Community
  • Commerce

He goes on to discuss strategies to use social media tools to achieve specific business goal(s). These tools have certainly leveled the playing field in terms of the potential to connect and get your message out.

What happens if we take out ‘business’ and replace it with ‘education’?

The goals of building strong connections between members like groups (administrators, teachers, support staff etc.) is key within an organization. Building a strong culture of learning and sharing is also important for the long term success of the organization. Furthermore, I believe building a community between these strategic groups to maximize learning and sharing with a focus on the ‘big picture collective goal(s)’ is also important.

It seems to me, the strategy of using the five C’s of Entrepreneurship 2.0 should be just as effective in the educational environment. Perhaps with the exception of making money, in my opinion, the other points are in strong alignment. If you were going to promote some new resource for example, I wonder what the impact would be of using social media tools as part of the promotion and marketing strategies would be?

After all, don’ t we want to

  • connect to our customers (internal, e.g. teachers)
  • build loyalty (return customers to continually use provided resources)
  • nurture these connections, and make new connections (connect more teachers & share)
  • grow (and engage)

I would say yes to all four points. This is, after all, part of the culture of a successful education organization too. IN addition to system announcements, posters etc., why not use social media tools to enhance these strategies?

Now, all that I need is a great project to give this a try!

~ Mark

K-12: Valuing online communities

I recently had an opportunity to present to our senior admin group to examine new directions concerning access to online resources. As part of the preliminary discussion, I outlined a frame of reference that included:

  • the value of online communities as an extension of school communities and classrooms, and
  • aligning internet resource selection processes with existing resource selection processes to form a basis of comparison as a starting point.

During the presentation, I made the following points to frame the discussion:

A growing body of evidence validates the importance of the sense of community within the learning environment for administrators, teachers and students alike. Benefits include:

  • promote life long learning
  • engaged learners
  • a sense of belonging and support
  • a culture of learning and sharing
  • communities are built on trust
  • embrace Character Development and Digital Citizenship ideals

In his book, Grown Up Digital, Don Tapscott promotes 7 strategies that support a ‘School 2.0’ environment. The strategies are summarized as follows:

  • Focus on the change in pedagogy, not the technology itself. Use technology for a student-focused, customized and collaborative learning environment
  • Reduce lecturing, broadcast learning does not work as effectively for this generation of learners. Allow the students to co-create a learning experience
  • Empower students to collaborate
  • Focus on life long learning
  • Use technology to get to know each student
  • Design programs that leverage the strengths of the Net Generation in project based learning
  • Reinvent your as an educator

Further to this presentation, I have been reading Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel.  Mitch also documents some important characteristics of communities. Although some of these statistics are more business oriented, I feel there is a strong connection to educational based online communities. Mitch notes that community users:

  • spend more money that non community users
  • remain customers 50% longer than non community members
  • visit 9 times more often than non community members
  • login one or more times per day (56%)

Additionally, 43% of Internet user who are members of online communities say they feel ‘as srtongly connected’ to their virtual communities as their real world communities.

To my way of thinking, these are impressive statistics. Online communities are here stay, are highly valued by users and provide valuable professional learning and sharing opportunities. It seems to me that it is equally important to establish online communities as a natural extension to school communities and classrooms. It is time to charge ahead and embrace social media tools within the curricula, not as an option, but as a planned strategy of curriculum delivery and learning opportunties.

~ Mark

Edu chit chat at ground level

We kicked today off with a lovely brunch hosted by very close friends – a perfect way to start the day! Many of the people in attendance are connected to the education scene in one way or another. Collectively we covered the range of parents, secondary teachers and department heads, vice principal, recently retired principal, university profs, soon to be teachers and me.

Of course, there was a healthy round of catching up on what is happening with the various families, plans for the festive season and, teachers being teachers, some ‘shop talk’ about what everyone was doing. So …. when it was my turn, I dived into the Ontario PLP experience I was enjoying and chatted about the potential powerful uses of social media tools in our system. Well, talk about start a multi dimensional conversation. I think we could have had a 2 day symposium with the brunch gang to explore the pros and cons all of the various options.

As a group, we represented decades of solid teaching experience. As a group, we represented an extremely diverse experiences in the areas of using, adopting (and embedding) technology in the way we teach, work and live.  We hit the whole range (minimum to maximum) of personal comfort levels, willingness to embrace new technologies, student engagement, the powerful potential of the tools available today and how the use of these tools would/could impact education in positive ways — a fascinating discussion to say the least.

We did cover one last point, and I saved it to last so it could stand on its own for emphasis — and it really struck a chord with me. The general consensus was that the typical teacher of today is not ready to embrace social media tools at this point in time for a number of reasons. At ‘ground level’

  • only a small percentage actually use social media tools
  • most teachers are not comfortable with the tools themselves, let alone embrace them in teaching
  • most teachers have not thought about embracing the power of social media in useful ways to support curriculum delivery
  • many teachers are not sure about the level of engagement the use of these tools may bring
  • some are curious about this ‘new world’

So, in yet another setting, we end up back at some of my favourite pondering points:

  • building communities and cultures of sharing
  • getting more teachers involved
  • etc., you can read my ‘list’ in an earlier blog post from this week

The important aspect of arriving at my favourite pondering points (again) is that I really trust the observations, opinions and insights that this group has about where things are at ‘in the field’. In some ways, this conversation was a reality check. Is the gap getting wider? In general, are we ‘preaching to the choir’?  More thinking and planning about systemic change, impacting the educational front etc. In some ways this is a nice lead into Will Richardson’s question, “what changed in 2009?”  Watch for an upcoming blog post where I will share my views on what changed.

~ Mark

Ontario Meetup: Are We Asking the Right Questions?

The recent Ontario Meetup online session provided the anticipated engaging discussion of educational directions. This particular session was led by @courosa. The discussion centred around the intersecting tensions in the K-12 educational environment between building online communities, embracing the value and power of social media tools and content filtering.

@dougpete captured the key points in his recent blog post  Getting Priorities Straight.  I have had the pleasure of having many engaging discussions with Doug around this very topic. I think he hit the nail on the head with his statement “From what we can see, there’s a real tightrope to be walked to reach the other side and keep the organization’s needs and the needs of the end user in balance”.

As I listened and participated in the online session, which wandered between the benefits and challenges with each of these areas, and since reflected on the nature of the discussion, it struck me that there may be a ‘new lens’ in the midst of this discussion. I am beginning to wonder if we are focusing on the right questions. It is my observation that there is a trend developing in these discussions:

  • building learning communities is the right thing to do in an educational environment
  • building a culture of sharing is important
  • content filtering policies can get in the way of reaching these goals

What I find troubling in these discussions, is that they often narrow to a focus on YouTube and Facebook, almost implying that the only way to achieve these goals is with the specific use of these tools.  I think the ‘new lens’ or focus on this topic needs to look at this from a different point of view. I am thinking more about change at the system level to embrace this in a more holistic way. Certainly, simply unblocking a site or two does not mean an education system of several thousand staff and students is ready to change and be instantly successful.

Assuming that building learning communities and establishing this culture of sharing are important, and fundamentally the right place to ‘get to’, perhaps the questions that need addressing are:

  • How do we get more people involved?
  • How do we make them comfortable in their journey to ‘jump in’ to this new world?
  • How do we best teach, practice and embed character development and digital citizenship for both students and staff?
  • How do we keep training costs to a minimum so that this does not become a barrier?
  • How do we move this agenda forward with or without the specific use of  ‘magnet’ sites such as YouTube and/or  Facebook?
  • How do we select some free/low cost tools so that
    • cost is not a barrier
    • there is some elements of consistency as teachers change grades and/or schools
    • the integrity of the environment (the ‘network’ = internal + internet) is reliable for all to use for both learning and business functions
  • Should there be some thought put into the ‘gradual release of responsibility’ concept being applied to social media use as there is in other curriculum areas?
  • As things change, and opportunities present themselves, we are promoting and celebrating the change(s)

These are the questions whirring though my mind. I want to extend a thank you to my PLP group and the participants of the Ontario Meetup group for continuing this important dialogue and keeping the discussion going. More thinking and planning to do!

~ Mark