October 28, 2012
From Smoke Signals to Tweets – from Beth & Shawn McCusker on Edudemic
EdTechTeacher’s Beth Holland collaborated with Chicago educator, Shawn McCusker (@ShawnMcCusker) on this post for Edudemic.
- The conversation started on Twitter as direct messages.
- Brief planning period via email ensued.
- Creation and shift to Google Doc where writing, commenting, and instant messaging proceeded.
- Final sharing back on Twitter.
Classroom ApplicationsNote that neither a phone, nor a face-to-face meeting, occurred. In fact, we have only met in person on one occasion, and yet we can seamlessly collaborate. So how does this apply to the classroom? Why is it essential when we are using devices with students that we go beyond simply giving students a tool and expect them to create course-specific content with it? Because unlike with previous technologies, the teaching of associated social skills seems to have been ignored. We can all remember our parents teaching us to politely answer a phone and write a letter. These norms transferred easily to the realm of e-mail, but how about a 140 character Tweet or a short text? How do we, as educators, help our students to develop skills to use the device as a tool of creation and the social skills to use it without negative consequence? This actually raises another question, WHY has the modeling of communication, collaboration, and social skills not accompanied these new advances? Educators, parents, and adults have experienced turmoil and discomfort because there have been few rules to go along with these latest technologies and platforms; because, frankly, they have been created and instigated by our students. The telegraph, telephone, computer, and even the Internet were invented by established adults. Facebook, one of the more disruptive technologies, took off because of a college-aged kid! Teens started texting long before their parents.
The Anomie ProblemSince we, as adults, did not model appropriate usage for our children and students, they don’t know how to react to these new communication styles, struggling to determine when they should use them and when they should not. This state of “anomie” or normlessness can be frustrating at the very least. This was true with the invention of cars, phones, walkmen, ipods and is no less true for devices in the classroom. Just think, about how hard theaters have worked to educate people about cell phone use during movies and plays. Consider the efforts currently being made to prevent texting and driving. Society is working hard to create norms in light of the rapid evolution of new technologies. As teachers, we will need to focus on helping students to learn the norms that relate to having devices in class as well as the appropriate context in which to use – or not use – them. We will need to help the students master the social implications of using these tools appropriately in order to make sure that they add to, rather than distract from, their learning.
How It Looks In The ClassroomGiven the challenges of piloting programs, integrating technology, and addressing 21st Century Skills, how do we also teach these complex communication strategies? What does this look like in the classroom?
- Angela Cunningham (@kyteacher) had her students Tweet the history of the United States as a review activity for their AP exam. However, she first had to teach them to Tweet. With slips of paper, they planned hashtags for major events and handles for significant historical figures. On other occasions, students organized reviews by Tweeting summaries of entire chapters of their book, and then, as a group, evaluated their effectiveness. In each case, students needed to evaluate information, identify the essential importance, and relate that significance to their classmates. Each Twitter activity created a lasting record of the process that reached an audience beyond the classroom.
- Suzy Brooks (@SimplySuzy) not only models digital citizenship and successful blogging strategies for her third-grade students, but also encourages them to blog. Throughout the year, they discuss the concept of being public, and published, as well as the ensuing social responsibility. Since she moderates all student posts and comments before they become public, Suzy creates a non-threatening learning environment where she has the chance to discuss digital citizenship and effective online communication without concerns about a negative impact.
- Tony Perez (@TonyPerez) presents FaceBook to his students at the Atlanta Girls School in the larger context of “finding our voice using Social Media.” The ultimate goal is for the students to understand that, to an increasing degree, they are who the Internet says they are. Given an understanding of that concept, students learn to take an active role in the presentation of their own self and ask if they are painting an authentic picture. All of this is presented under the context that everything we post, re-post, Tweet, Like or otherwise engage in on the web and in social media, along with our surfing habits, purchases, and email, contributes to the long-tail which follows us across the web and through the years. It is this body of information about us that creates the larger, universal “my profile” – or, in other words, our digital brand.