Open Dialogue is the Key

Sharon McCutcheon

There is much to write about when it comes to the plethora of reading this week.  However, there is one topic that really resonates with me, that I want to expand on.  The reading Children in a Digital World points out the fact that youth, aged 15-24, are the most connected age group in the world.  This is not surprising at all, as these Digital Natives, have grown up constantly connected. The report also spoke to the phenomena of children being left alone with digital devices in their bedrooms, even overnight. The report states: “Smartphones are fuelling a ‘bedroom culture’, with online access for many children becoming more personal, more private and less supervised”. It still surprises me that many children are left alone in their rooms with digital devices.

Boudewijn Huysmans

This infographic from Common Sense Media on Teen Social Media Experiences had some statistics to further my point.  57% of teens stated they were distracted by a mobile device when they should be doing homework, and 29% said that they have been woken up by their smartphone.  When we look at the full report from Common Sense Media on Teen Social Media Experiences it contains some other powerful statistics, 37% of teens stated they were on the mobile devices when they were supposed to be doing homework, and 26% stated that their devices impeded their sleep.

Taken from Common Sense Media

We can’t assume that teens are going to make good decisions around having screens in their bedrooms, and making positive assumptions around this can be dangerous. Like any other life skill that we work with teens on, this is something that needs to be addressed with our kids and revisited frequently.  The challenge for many parents and teachers alike, is that we grew up with a totally different experience and thus have nothing to fall back on. It is really important that we read research and keep ourselves informed. Here are a couple of great resources to start the conversation:

Should bedrooms be No Phone Zones for Teens

Teenagers’ sleep quality and mental health at risk over late-night mobile phone use.

I recently was passed this article from a friend that I think really drove home the point as to why teens need to check their phone in at night, entitled “Our Daughter’s Nightly Struggle”. Beyond the lack of sleep, this article points out to other pressures are kids might be dealing with that we don’t know about.

We know our kids are more wired than ever before. We also know that being connected is highly important to them as individuals, and to their success in social circles and relationships.  As adults we have a responsibility to teens to guide them through making smart decisions around their use of tech. We need to open up the dialogue.

Moving from Lurker to Connector to Contributor and Creator

There was lots of great food for thought this week in the readings, the theme being Lurker to Connector.  However, I would like to push the thought a step further and say that we should be moving from Lurkers to Connectors to Contributors and Creators.

Image result for dipping toe in the water

Kelsey O’Brien

Like many of us, when I first join any social media site I tend to spend a lot of time lurking, putting one foot into the pond, testing the waters, checking things out, getting a feel for the scene.  I have always admired those that just dive right in to any new thing without a caution, unfortunately this has never been me, but I have pushing myself to change over the last few years, especially as I have moved into Teaching and Learning and my current role of Director of IT and Innovation.  I now find myself pushing others to move themselves beyond lurking, and well, in order to do so, I have to first push myself.

In Jeff’s article What Does it Mean to Disconnect, he makes a powerful point with the statistic that only 1% of internet users are creators.  Lots of lurkers, and some contributors, but not many creators. He furthers this point when he speaks to the fact that many educators take things from the internet to create lessons, but about 10% put content on the internet for others to use.

Likewise in Living and Learning with New Media, the terms used are “Hanging Out” as opposed to Lurking, and “Messing Around” as opposed to connecting. They mean the same thing, but the point being that a majority of those on the web are doing either of these activities, as opposed to “Geeking Out” (Contributing and Creating). The above article studied youth culture, but again, the concept and terms transcend to adults as well. The bottom line being that we need more creators on the web.

When I reflect on my own practice over the past 15 years, I have taken a lot from the web, but have not contributed much until lately. Last year, I had the privilege of becoming a Google Certified Trainer.  One of the many things I enjoy about being a GCT is that I must contribute to the database of resources that exist for all of us to use.  It has forced me to move beyond being a lurker, connector, contributor, to being a creator. I have also recently written a few Blog posts for education Blogs and in the past couple of years have become very active on Twitter, contributing as much as possible.

Image result for diving into water

I recently gave a presentation with my partner entitled, Literacy Development in a Digital Age.  One of the important points that we made is that even at a young age it is highly important for children to not just be consuming content, but interacting and even creating. This presentation was aimed at parents of early years and lower elementary students, but our point can transcend all divisions and adults.  Too much screen time spent lurking is a bad thing, but taking the time to create is completely different. It promotes the 4Cs that Joel Bevans mentions in his article I am a lurker, but I am changing.

In Cofino’s post, First Steps Toward Becoming a 21st Century Educator, she lays a good foundation for becoming a 21st Century Educator.  I find her point about being the only one in a certain position at a school very poignant (consider I am the only Tech Director at my school). Having that connection with others is so important so you can share successes and failures, and seek advice.  Even more importantly, she points out that one must begin to contribute and create as well.

Two great corporate examples that come to mind are Google and 3M.  Google has had the concept of the 20% rule in place in which employees could spend 20% of their time working on personal projects or exploring ideas.  3M has always been known for promoting creation, ever since 3M sticky notes were invented. Did you know that in 2012 alone 3M had over 500 patents awarded, not that is creation.

I have recently read a couple of great articles promoting the idea of creating and why leaders must begin to create content on the web.  The first article, Why Great Leaders Should be Great Writers by Tonya Thomson, purports that we all have influence and should use it.  All of us involved in the COETAIL program are leaders, and as such, we have influence and should use it in a positive manner. To me this means putting ourselves out there on the web. The article also states that we should use writing to express our creativity, passion and communication skills. The second article is bit more “geeky” in nature, but it drives home the point perfectly.  In, Why you should contribute to open source software right now, Austin Tackaberry, speaks to the fact that developers should not be afraid to jump in and correct or improve open source code.  They just need to do it, learn while they do it, and not be afraid to make mistakes. The same goes for creating content, just dive right in and go for it.

Learning Goals

ISTE Standard: Digital Citizenship

Learning Goal: To be a leader at my school and within my community around empowering students to use technology and digital resources in responsible ways, and to have open dialogue with colleagues around these ideas, so that they too can have these conversations, with each other,  students, and stakeholders.

Influence: Being a leader in technology and innovation at my school, this standard impacts my work heavily day to day.  Being able to have conversations with fellow colleagues around responsible, yet innovative technology use is important.  But beyond this, being able to work with stakeholders to create a shared vision for digital citizenship and approaching this in a collaborative manner is important.  The term digital citizenship everywhere these days, but really being authentic to our students, community, and context is what will make it impactful for us.

ISTE Standard: Leader

Learning Goal: To promote a shared vision around technology and innovation at ISC, and to promote a culture of learning around technology and innovation with staff and students.

Influence: Our school is currently in an exciting point in time. We are working towards having all staff Google Level 1 Certified, building a new innovation space, taking on new software, and our one to one program is well established. This standard has influenced this goal in that being a leader in technology and innovation is important, but creating a shared vision that all stakeholders buy into is even more powerful. Continuing to refine and improve my technological leadership skills is vital to my role and will allow our school to continue its growth as an innovative international school.

ISTE Standard: Designer

Learning Goal: To promote the increased use of education technology in classrooms, and instil more confidence in staff to take risks in this area by developing, testing, and working side by side with students with edtech.

Influence:  As our school continues to grow and develop in a multitude of areas, it is vital that staff feel they have the skills to develop and the confidence to make mistakes.  Additionally, ensuring we are creating personalized, learner driven experiences allows students to have a voice in the edtech that is being taught and learned at our school.

Professional Learning Communities

I am lucky enough to be connected formally in several learning communities as outlined in my graphic.  Through my school, I am connected with our leadership team who encourage each other to read literature, blogs, and social media.  Beyond encouraging each other to engage in learning, we also share back our learning on a bi-weekly basis.  I have also taken this model and used it with my IT/Innovation team, encouraging them to learn and share.  Furthermore, there are also several of us at the school who are regular readers. We share books, and engage in regular dialogue.

Since moving to South America, I have slowly been connecting with other IT Directors in the region.  This has allowed me to create powerful connections and open up conversations around issues that are impacting all of our work. I recently traveled to two of these schools and was able to solidify my connections further.  This past August I traveled to Stanford for a course on Design Thinking.  Upon completion of the course we created a Slack group to stay connected and continue the learning.  Lastly, I use Twitter regularly to stay connected with other professionals in IT/Innovation, and EdTech.