Fourth Graders know

So I still have Shirky’s post running through my head. Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here’s something four-year-olds know: Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won’t have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan’s Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing. When today I head into a 4th grade class to talk about cyber safety (the school counselor talked me into it 😉 ). As we were wrapping up I asked the kids, “How old do you think the Internet is?” “50?”“20?” Counselor: “What!” laughing “No way!” “15?” Me: “Well actually the web as we know it today got started in 1996.” Students:“What! That’s it?”“No Way!” Every student but one has their own cell phoneEvery student raised their hand when I asked if they go on the Internet at least once a week.Every student has an mp3 player To reword Shirky from above: Here’s something fourth graders know: Media is free, content is free, it’s always been that way. Here’s something fourth graders know: Information that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because fourth graders, the students we’re teaching are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won’t have to go through the trauma that we have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching (Insert favorite sitcom), they just assume that information is consumable, producible and sharable. And that’s just the way it is! What interested me the most is in all six of the classes, as soon as I start talking about technology they all get that look….teachers know the one…..the one of complete attention, of wanting to know and wanting to share what they know. We talk about all their favorite sites, we talk about who has this gaming console and who has that one. We talk about cell phones…and when they are really excited, we talk about staying safe on the web. What do you share,...

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Why Not take a risk?

We can not expect teachers to take a risk and try something new if we ourselves are not willing to try something new. I held a PD session for K-12 teachers after school today. It was one of 5 technology sessions we offered to teachers in what is known as TECH Wednesdays. Basically one Wednesday a month is set aside for tech PD. Today’s sessions included: Blogging: (Brought 15 more teachers online) Netvibes: Learn about Ginger and the new Universe function (Netvibes is the dominate RSS reader at our school) Photoshop: Basic photo munipulation (resize, crop, rotate, etc) Beginner Basics: For those who need just basic computer help at a beginner level Why Not?: My session which focused on the question Why (BYOL=Bring Your Own Laptop session). Not only did I want to try and help teachers understand why we need to be using technology to teach but I also wanted to demonstarte how one of these tools could be used in a classroom setting. If I was asking my teachers to take a risk in their own classroom, then I felt I needed to show that I too was willing to take a risk with my presentation and push myself to try something new. So, I set up a chat room using chatzy.com. As people filed into my session I had them open their laptops and helped them to log into the private chat room. I was taking a risk on a couple of different levels. I had never used chatzy.com before and was praying that it was stable enough and easy enough for teachers to be able to figure out with little instruction. I was worried that our wireless access point would not deal with more than 20 laptops in the room. So earilier in the day I asked the IT department to install two other access points…praying we could make it work. We are in China…and there is always the “China Factor” that you need to worry about. Would the teachers take the chat room seriously or would it, like it could with students if not structured correctly, become a place to play rather than to think deep? And of course…just in case something failed I brought chocolate! Teachers, after a long day of teaching, will forgive you when you fail if you have chocolate….I always have chocolate. 🙂 I began the session by explaining that...

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Moving from Consumer to Producer of Information

(A blog post I wrote to 11th graders and to myself) Some interesting research has come out in the past couple of months that looks at the use of social networks and blogging and the trends that are happening in society today. Nearly half of 18-24 year old social networkers (45%) told Future Laboratory researchers that if they had 15 minutes of spare time they would choose spend it on social networking sites rather than watching TV, reading, talking on their mobile, or playing video games. The impact of this trend is so significant that a quarter (25%) of respondents state that the rise in social networks has decreased the amount of traditional television they consume. I continue to look at trends in our society and find myself among those that have decreased my TV time in favor of the social network. I continue to ask myself why is it that social networks are where I want to be and where I do most of my learning. What I have noticed personally is a change within myself from a consumer of knowledge to a producer of knowledge. Watching TV does not allow me to interact with knowledge, allow me to leave a comment, remix it into my own words, or interact with the author in a true and meaningful way. Social Networks, and the social web (also known as Web 2.0) allows me to not only consume but easily produce knowledge of my own. It is this interaction with knowledge that leads to new understandings and pushes me to think. Because I am connected to the social web I am then allowed to create new knowledge based on my new understandings. Does that make sense? What really interests me is that we use to believe that those who spent all their time connected to a computer where lonely, disconnected, and had no life. Yet new research is pointing to the exactly opposite. The research, from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, found after two months of regular blogging, people felt they had better social support and friendship networks than those who did not blog. Those who are connected in social networks already know this, it’s just great to see research back it up. I have very few friends here in Shanghai, but I have support and friendship networks that are very live and personal to me. My wife gets...

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When blogs are just what your school does

Yes we have over 600 student blogs running here in Shanghai. From grades 4-12, students are blogging up a storm. In fact we’re getting to a point that the blogs are part of just what students do here. Today this e-mail was sent out to all staff from a student (shared here with permission…and excitement). To whom it may concern,   My name is Caitlin and I am a 8th grader. Recently we have been working on a project about global issues in my Humanities class.   My group decided to focus on school violence. One of the actions we are taking in order to lower school violence is a blog. A blog made for teens to vent and if needed contact us about their problems. This will hopefully get to teens before they result to violence or catch the violence before it get serious. We would greatly appreciate if you wouldn’t mind forwarding this email to anyone who can help, post something about our blog http://blogs.saschinaonline.org/mixedemotions and linking our blog on your blog or any other website, inform teenagers about our blog, and finally (if possible) check out our blog yourself and leave a commit.     Thank you so much, Caitlin How cool is this! That the students are starting their own blogs for projects, are using them for learning, for communicating, for collaborating, and for helping others. They are starting to understand what it means to have an authentic audience. I mean, they’ve always understood it. Just now I think they’re seeing the power in the network, the power in learning and communicating in a place that is open and familiar to them for educational purposes. What I love is that the first thing any student does when they start a new blog is activate the FireStats plugin so they can see how many people are viewing their site. They usually then go to clustermaps or somewhere else on the web and get themselves a map of where people are coming from. An audience is important to them. It is important to know that someone else is reading your thoughts, maybe even leaving a comment. They want, and at this point, crave that authentic audience. They are also understanding the importance of linking. The e-mail is asking teachers to link to their blog so others can find them. That right there is understanding the power of networks. When sharing, communicating,...

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Allowing students to teach

They know a heck of a lot, and when it comes to technology, they know way more then me and I’m the one who’s employed to know it. It’s a scary thought, but one that is real and if we can get to a point that it’s OK to ask them to teach us it changes relationships and learning on many levels. After having issues with my laptop last week during a Shifting Our Schools podcast I decided that it was time to take the plunge for real and try out Ubuntu. I’ve been wanting to play with it for awhile now and decided that now is the time. So over the weekend I installed it and started playing. My goal is to turn the laptop into a podcasting machine. I know I can load Skype, Audacity, and some virtual audio cables to make the whole thing work like is should. So I downloaded Skype and Audacity and took about 3 hours to try and figure out what to do with the files once I downloaded them. Frustrated I gave up. Today I came to school, went to the office and asked for the schedule of one of the our students who I know runs Ubuntu and loves Linux. I found her in class and asked if she had some free time and could stop by and help me out. Sure enough she took her study hall time to stop by and in a matter of about 30 minutes she taught me enough to keep me busy for the next couple of weeks. The interesting part was to watch and see what she wanted to make sure I had installed. I asked her to teach me how to install programs.But before she could teach me that she needed to first show me how to install some cool features. Like the switching of screens in cube form, how to paint fire, and some other simple add-ons. She then downloaded an audio playing program for me, telling me I just had to have this one, and then showed me how to check for updates. Only after all that did she show my how to download programs and install them using the built-in installer. Sometimes teachers feel like they have to know it all. Like we need to understand the technology before we are able to use it. I don’t think that...

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