Stop Pretending in Education

In education, we have to stop pretending that

  • learning happens in straight lines, neat boxes and perfect circles
  • the adults have the answers, independent of conversations with children and communities and can effectively impart the answers to children
  • technology programs are naturally innovative and transformative
  • we are preparing students for their life and its okay to ignore who they are right now
  • learning can happen even when there is no engagement and fun

Scott McLeod challenged others to participate in a conversation on how to #makeschooldifferent with the prompt “… we have to stop pretending”. In this challenge, I’d like to invite @jmikton, @sbradshaw, @BobsPragueBlog, @elizabethperry and @njtechteacher to participate.

Growing up Online

Digital by Steve Jurvetson CC Licensed

Digital by Steve Jurvetson
CC Licensed

The idea that this generation is growing up online may be cliched, but you only have to visit the Facebook feed of one of your friends with young children to note that children have an online presence before they have much (any) choice about it. Facebook recently added a feature called Scrapbook, which lets you give children under 13 an official presence on the site.

Two things happened today to float this issue to the top of my mind again. In a workshop on Design Thinking and Tinkering with Liz Perry, someone proposed that tinkering and hands-on/active play is vital in schools because too little of it happens at home, and this is often because children are given too much access to technology. Then on my walk home, I listened to an OnBeing podcast conversation between danah boyd and Krista Tippett titled “Online Reflections of Our Offline Lives“. In particular, danah talks about how our current social and family structures, and fear mongering make it hard for children to meet friends to play with and explore (in) their physical world. She contends that even if a parent gives a child the opportunity to do so, it’s meaningless if the child’s friends aren’t also allowed to, and this pushes social activity online. She emphasizes that children are learning behaviors from us, and we serve as models for them of the kinds of activities that they can/should engage in. She advices parents to build a network of adults in a child’s life that the child can have access to for support, help, encouragement, modelling to replace the missing social connections that were traditionally available through nearby family, church, and other networks.

danah talks about the three C’s to consider in digital citizenship: conduct, content and contact. The part that worries parents (and educators) the most is conduct. But what conduct are we modelling for children? What do we expect them to learn from news, reality shows, backbiting and gossip amongst parents, politics and advertising? Drama and interpersonal conflict is rife in amongst adults in our world and from that, children learn the flair for drama, as well as self-bullying. danah sites research that she and Elizabeth Englander did on which shows that cruel questions asked by teens are often answered by the questioner to build drama online. danah talks about the fact that teens explore identity online, and that their use of media shifts over time. When people engage online, there are some things that they have control on, and some things (such as search results and archiving) that they do not. If we want children to think creatively and critically to made decisions about their online life, what questions can we ask them to facilitate this? How can we do this questioning in a way that’s nonjudgemental and open to encourage children to think in ways that can result in transformative action?

As a technology instructionalist, I’m wondering how much technology use is too much, and what is developmentally appropriate at different age levels. I’m also wondering about how we can improve our use of technology to mitigate some of the negative impact of our current use. When I look at the creative thinking spiral by Resnick, play and share are key components. This makes me wonder how social is play, and what does online play offer? Children can play alone, but in a constructivist framework, socializing and sharing are important components.

What questions are you grappling with about helping our children navigate the three c’s of contact, content and conduct online? What have you found to be successful with children at various developmental levels?

The Kids Should See This – 10 Ways to Use Video in the Classroom

The Kids Should See This is a site Rion Nakaya and her two children. Ms. Nakaya explains that she created the site to inspire inquiry and wonder. Visit the site for “smart videos for curious minds of all ages” (quote on site).

Video is a great addition to the classroom. Use it as a hook or tuning in activity, or in a number of other ways. Here are some ideas:

  • lesson hook
  • writing prompt for fiction or nonfiction
  • response in discussion forum or on blog post
  • trigger for creating wonder questions
  • springboard for teaching research skills
  • inspiration for kids to create their own video
  • inspiration for service learning/social activism
  • learn vocabulary
  • entry into creation – have students add on to the story/event

Know that the videos are hosted on external sites, but embedded on the site. Notice that children can click on the word YouTube in the video and get on the YouTube site. When using The Kids Should See This (or other YouTube videos) with students, be sure to let them know to practice safe and responsible use by watching the video as it is embedded, and not clicking on YouTube.

Here’s a cool video from the site on the Moser Lamp (which I just happened to learn about recently at a presentation on Kiva U).

Prioritizing the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship

Mark Ribble contends that there are nine elements of digital citizenship. He invites schools to prioritize the nine components, and consider how they relate to the context and environment of the school. Looking at the nine elements, I tried to prioritize them:

  1. Digital Etiquette – acceptable standards of behaviour online
  2. Digital Access – students have access to technology as they need it throughout the day
  3. Digital Literacy – learning about technology and using technology meaningfully and successfully
  4. Digital communication – sending and receiving information electronically
  5. Digital Rights and Responsibilities – freedoms and responsibilities extended to everyone in the digital world
  6. Digital Health and Wellness – staying healthy physically and mentally within the digital world
  7. Digital Security – electronic precautions for safety
  8. Digital Law – electronic responsibility for actions and deeds
  9. Digital Commerce – buying and selling goods online

However, I’m not comfortable with this sequence because some of the elements go hand in hand. So I decided to organize the elements into tiers:

Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3

Digital Access

Digital Etiquette

Digital Literacy

Digital Communication

Digital Rights and Responsibilities

Digital Health and Wellness

Digital Security

Digital Law

Digital Commerce

I’m still not pleased with this organization. You should consider ergonomics (health and wellness) whenever using digital devices, for example, and make sure that media used in projects is creative commons licensed or from the public domain. So maybe the model is less about tiers and more about layers.

Maybe the way to approach digital citizenship is to introduce students to all the components, then to add another layer to deepen understanding of each element as is relevant to other units and lessons in the curriculum. The intent is not to cover digital citizenship and be done, but rather to incorporate digital citizenship into teaching and learning in the classroom, as is developmentally appropriate for students.

How do you approach digital citizenship in your classroom or school? Do you use the 9 elements framework or another framework?


For more information on the 9 elements, see

Why I Dislike(d) Conferences

I spent much of last weekend at Bavarian International School in Munich, attending the ECIS Tech conference. The theme of the conference was on building engagement. I went to several sessions on making and the maker movement, collaboration, and technology support/coaching. I have a list of ideas to explore further through thinking, conversations, blogging and exploration.

I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of conferences. I’ve been thinking about what the traditional/typical conference offers to reframe my thinking from “don’t like conferences” to “conferences offer …”. The reason that I don’t like conferences is because they are an inadequate approach to professional development. I did my graduate work on professional development for effective technology integration. Conferences are the tip of the iceberg, but they can provide some unique opportunities.

Conferences are a great opportunity for informal learning. Take the chance to speak to people between and during sessions to expand your knowledge of what’s happening in education beyond your experience.

Conferences, especially large ones, provide exposure to new technology. Before going to a conference, make a list of the tools/resources that you are dissatisfied with or problems that you have not found a solution for. Visit vendors and demos to find out resources that may meet your needs. Also take the opportunity for hands-on experience with tools that you are curious about or have never encountered before to build your knowledgebase.

Attend sessions that are connected to your professional development plan. Look at the agenda to decide what value the conference offers you, and whether to attend. It’s okay to sit out a session; this could be a valuable opportunity to process a previous session and make a plan for integrating your new learning into your context. Spend some time looking at the schedule and select sessions that tie into your goals and plans, and that will help you achieve them. Have a focus.

Meet people from your virtual learning network. I’m a big fan of virtual connections but have to remember the importance of connections in the physical work. It adds a new dimension to the connections that you’ve built online when you can meet people in the physical world.

Present something that you’re excited or passionate about. Sometimes I feel that my role should be obsolete given the ease of finding things online. However, presenting lets you add the social element to learning which provides motivation and engagement. It also lets you cater to different personality types and learning preferences.

Take time to debrief. This is the process that I am embarking on. I plan to share resources to those who may be interested, to write some blog posts to expand and share my thinking, follow up with admin to clarify some goals, and implement some processes related to my own professional growth.

If you have a growth mindset, you can create your own learning experiences in a conference, or reframe the experiences provided to meet your goals and the needs of your role.

What strategies do you apply to grow from participation in conferences? Are you someone who loves conferences? I’d love to know what excites you about them.

Literacy Activities using Skype in the Classroom

There are several projects whereby you can use Skype for enriching learning in your classroom. One initiative is to encourage teachers to use Skype for building literacy.

Skype is currently highlighting a number of activities that you can do to reading, writing and digital literacy, as well as responsible Internet use:

Why use Skype in the classroom?

Skype helps you flatten the walls of your classroom, exposing children to the richness of the broader world. We can also use Skype to add context to learning, and to make it authentic for children. Skype can provide the opportunity to engage children’s inquiry, creativity and wonder by meeting other people around the world, learning from them, and sharing creations with them. The highlighted activity this month is the Big Questions Challenge.

The Big Questions Challenge uses a video to pose an open question for students to think about, research, and respond to. According to Skype, the goal of the challenge is “to develop digital literacy skills, and to encourage critical thinking and collaborative learning”. The challenges uses the following skills:

  • collaboration (students work in groups to answer the question)
  • critical thinking (students have to come up with solutions, where there are multiple options)
  • presentation (students can present the “answer” to others face-to-face or online, e.g. through a blog)
  • research (students may do research to find out about the topic)

The challenge uses an inquiry stance, whereby students self-organize to answer the question.

For this and other lessons, please visit Skype Education.

How to Use YouTube Capture

Do you take many video clips in your classroom? Would you like to merge them into one video? YouTube Capture lets you do just that.

YouTube Capture lets you easily merge two or more video clips together, trim parts of each one as desired, add music and upload the completed video to YouTube using only one app.

Here’s a tutorial video to show you how to use YouTube Capture. Before you start to watch the tutorial (or maybe even instead of it), I recommend that¬†download the app and take a look at it yourself to see what you can discover. Here are some questions to guide your independent exploration:

  • How do you combine clips to form a video?
  • How do you trim a clip?
  • How do you add music/sound?
  • Can you edit any sound that you add?
  • What happens to clips if you restart the recording?
  • How do you log out?
  • Do clips take in YouTube capture get saved in the camera roll?

If you’ve used YouTube capture, please share your ideas/lessons in the comments.

Literacy Apps from Read Write Think

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 17.46.59Read Write Think, a website from NCTE and the International Reading Association has 9 Mobile Apps that may be useful to you for teaching. These apps are meant to engage students in literacy learning. Apps include those for writing poetry, for trading cards, for timelines, and for Venn diagrams.

While these apps mostly lend themselves to substitution, the scaffolding provided in the apps and the ease of moving items around may move the usage to augmentation. What you do with the final product or how you frame the activity may move the use to modification or redefinition. These apps may be useful for App Smashing (combining products from one or more apps into another app).

The Complete List of 9 Apps:



Research on Coaching

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

The final chapter of Coaching Approaches & Perspectives is written by Jake Cornett and Jim Knight on the topic of Research on Coaching. Quantitative research is (ethically) difficult in education. The analysis that Cornett and Knight have done of the existing research reveals a problem of validity and reliability due to problematic methods. There is also a dearth of of quantitative/experimental research on the effectiveness of coaching for increasing student achievement. The existing research suggests that coaching is effective in professional development by increasing implementation and understanding of programs and models by teachers. For research to guide practice, educators need more reliable and valid research on the structures that allow coaching to work and the instances when coaching is effective. Educators could also benefit from research that shows the types of coaching that are effective, for who they are effective, and when they are effective. For example, when is one-on-one, small group, autonomous online, and other types of coaching effective for working with teachers? What’s the appropriate use of modeling in professional development? Questions abound, and there are currently more questions than answers.

It’s been six years since the book was published. I wonder how the scope of research has changed in that time. I would like to determine the intersection of technology coaching with the ten types of coaching identified in this book. Although I am done reading this book, my inquiry is far from complete. My next steps are to identify my learning from this book, to extract the components relevant to my work, and to identify interventions that I will apply to my work based on what I learned in this book. I’ve also joined a MOOC on Technology Coaching. A key question for me is how can I leverage social networking and online communication to create the supportive network important to my own professional growth?

If you’ve read any recent research/books/articles on Technology Coaching that you found inspiring or empowering, please share them with me in the comments.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

YouTube for Kids

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 10.01.03YouTube for kids is the first app from Google solely geared at kids. There are apps for Android and iOS but the apps are only available through the US App Stores. Google uses “a mix of automated analysis and user input” (Official YouTube Blog) to determine which videos to include in the app. Videos on the homepage undo additional analysis to determine that they have no restricted content. The app lets parents add controls about:

  • usage time
  • sound (e.g. turn off sound effects and background sounds)
  • search settings

The app counts on parent involvement for refining the curation of videos. If you find a video inappropriate for children, flag it for Google’s review. It’s important to remember however, that Google controls the content that kids have access to in the app; parents cannot customize those options in the app. I think that YouTube Kids meets a need. I see children browsing YouTube on devices while waiting in various places with their parents such as school cafeteria, airports, restaurants, etc. If you’re going to let a child use a device to browse YouTube, it’s worth exploring YouTube Kids.

Will you be installing YouTube Kids for your children to use?

Here’s a great guide for aimed at parents –