The End of My Digital Leading and Learning Journey!

The reason that I chose the Digital Learning and Leading program was because I felt like I would be able to learn a lot from it. Other program descriptions didn’t draw me in like this one did. I have been teaching for a long time, in a variety of schools, with many types of students, focusing on all subject areas. I have had a lot of experience with curriculum and instruction, and I know that I would NEVER want my Master’s in administration. NO thank you! I love the students and the teachers, but have had my share of parents who make me steer clear of anything involving them directly. So what was left? I have always been fairly tech savvy, but have had trouble keeping up in recent years. A program where I was exposed to innovative strategies was just what I needed.

My favorite part of the program has been learning about Significant Learning Environments and the COVA approach and reading A New Culture of Learning. I feel like the ideas presented not only align with my beliefs, but also validate and affirm the things that I’ve been trying to do as an instructional coach. There’s a part of me that wants to go back into the classroom just to work on this one aspect of my learning in this program. I feel like it would be easier to achieve in my own classroom, rather than helping other teachers to create it in theirs. Maybe one day….

Creating an online/blended class in Schoology was another powerful part of the program. It gave me a place and a structure for my ideas of helping teachers learn about blended learning, and linked directly to my innovation plan.

Along with Schoology, I was exposed to a variety of technology throughout the program. I learned about Piktochart, emaze, Kizoa, Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Spark among others. This experience and introduction to online resources has taken away any fear I may once have had about trying new things. Technology is so amazing, and it never hurts to jump in and give something a shot!

One thing that many graduate school students dread is literature reviews. I now know why. It takes a long time and a lot of work to dive into the literature about what others have done! However, I felt like I learned a lot from so much reading about blended learning, and I know that what I wrote in those literature reviews will be useful to me in the future.

This program was the perfect one for me, and I couldn’t be more excited to be finishing up!

Reflecting on My Innovation Project

Wow! As I look back on all that I’ve done with my innovation plan, I realize that I’ve come a long way since last August! Back then, I remember my plan being a vague idea in the back of my mind that I hoped would work. I was just learning about the concept of blended learning, and I knew that my school had a lot of technology to use.  I hadn’t learned about the COVA approach (choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning) or Creating Significant Learning Environments. I also hadn’t studied types of planning, such as starting with a WIG (wildly important goal) or 4DX or Fink’s 3 column table or Understanding by Design!

When I studied the literature about blended learning, I saw that it was possible and that teachers have been implementing it for awhile now. I had an idea of how to handle some of the obstacles that others faced, and details to put my plan into action! I also created a video about my thoughts on innovative teaching and learning.

The next step was to create an online course for teachers to use to learn about how to use blended learning in their classrooms. I planned for this to be  presented in a blended format so that teacher could have an example modeled for them. My course plan for teachers came together, and I learned so much about creating courses for others to follow! I read about a variety of ideas involving planning, and then create a course in Schoology. Final refinements came, including a call to action.

I wouldn’t say that my innovation plan is done. In fact, it’s far from being done. But I have learned so much and am slowly working to incorporate it in small pieces across my school. I am currently working with the second grade teachers to implement pieces of my innovation plan, and hope to see success soon!

Reflecting on COVA and CSLE

The Past

You know how sometimes, something presents itself to you, and you think, “Wow! This is exactly what I was looking for!” or “This matches up exactly with what I think!”

This program has done that for me. The COVA approach puts into words the ideas I’ve always had about how people learn. My thoughts were never clear or coherent, but after reading about and participating in a program that truly matches my learning philosophy, I feel that my ideas have come together, been affirmed, and with practice, will be something that I know how to advocate for.

I also believe in the CSLE ideas. They go hand-in-hand with COVA. Together they fit with the constructivist approach to learning. An environment where students are guided and encouraged to own their learning allows them to construct meaning and deep understanding.

It’s hard to say when I realized that I had choice and voice in this program. I guess it was around the third class, when I was frustrated that I didn’t have enough information to do my assignments. Professors told us to keep going, to keep working, to do what we felt was best. I didn’t like that at first. I wanted specific, clear expectations. As I completed one assignment and then another, I began to realize that it was possible. I had what it took to choose the direction of my learning.

I remembered back to the time when I was trying to decide what master’s program I wanted to begin. As I read all of the choices, the DLL program really stood out to me because of its differences from others I had seen. I wanted something that would challenge me, that I could learn from, and was not just ‘doing school’ for the sake of doing school. This program definitely did that! Instead of reading textbooks, taking tests, and writing papers to appease a professor, I read relevant books and articles, discussed ideas with my peers, wrote some papers as part of the research for my innovation project, and created an eportfolio. I enjoyed reading what others were working on and how they were able to apply the same ideas and concepts to their own jobs and innovation plans.

The Future

My goal is to ‘spread’ the COVA approach to the teachers that I work with. As an elementary instructional coach, I feel that I might have more opportunities for this than some others in the course. Guiding teachers to implement new ideas is basically what I do for a living! However, it is such a far stretch from what most teachers at my school are currently doing, that it won’t be that easy. Teachers have so much going on in their classrooms, and I have to be careful to approach this gently and slowly to encourage them to take small steps toward implementation. I have one team of teachers that is really interested in starting something along these lines, so I will begin working with them. Hopefully we will find some small changes that will have strong enough effects that other teachers won’t be able to say no!

Digital Citizenship – Week 5

Digital citizenship is a very broad topic with many specific details to learn. Five weeks is just too short to really learn everything well! Both texts were lengthy, but also very appropriate for the course. I learned a lot from both, but I felt that Ribble’s text was more appropriate for my current job as an instructional coach.

I feel that my biggest accomplishment, and also my best work, in this course was creating a PowToon. I’ve used PowToon before, but not in as much detail as this. I added music, got the words and pictures adjusted correctly, and made sure that everything was well timed. The final product included information about a recent technological advance and the digital citizenship elements that it involved. Through creating the presentation, I learned more about helpful technological features, such as common symbols and tools that many websites and programs use. Unless I get a chance to ‘play’ with a program, I usually don’t know much about the features available. With PowToon, I didn’t realize that you can include photos and music, or adjust the timing so easily.

My biggest challenge, as in any course, was time. With a full-time job and two kids, it is difficult to find time to dedicate to reading, researching, and working on school. I was hoping that this would all be easier in the summer, but it was actually harder. I just wanted to play with my kids!

In my role as an instructional coach, I don’t often have to deal with the student side of digital citizenship. I do, however, feel that I need to set a good example in my digital habits so that the teachers at my school can learn from me. Knowing more about copyright laws is very useful to me as I use resources to prepare lessons and presentations.

This course taught me a lot of things that I probably should have already known, such as copyright laws and fair use information. I hope that I can continue to learn more and practice, and teach others about what I’ve learned. My favorite part of the course was learning about Ribble’s Elements of Digital Citizenship. Although they make a lot of sense, I had never thought about them individually or specifically like that.

In terms of the course specifically, I feel that, in order to get the most out of it, you need to put in a lot of time and effort. Just skimming the surface of the texts and the information provided doesn’t do it justice. I think that the final project has been the most difficult activity in the course. I feel that, on one hand, 5 pages is much too short to talk about all the information on such a dense topic. On the other hand, it feels almost too lengthy and formal compared to our other assignments in this course. I guess I don’t know of an appropriate alternate assignment though. To friends, I might say that this course taught me a lot about some very specific topics, and seemed almost too short to cover everything well.

Digital Citizenship – Week 4

Bullying has been an issue in schools since I was a kid, and even longer from the stories I’ve heard from parents and grandparents. Kids would call each other names, push or hit one another, and even convince other kids not to like someone. These are all examples of bullying. They can all happen to different degrees and affect kids in various ways. With the advent of the internet and social media, bullying expanded into the cyber world. Cyberbullying is now a common form of bullying, although it still does not happen as often as bullying in person.

Cyberbullying can be done through many different types of technology – email, texting, instant messaging, websites, and social media sites – through posts, comments, emails, and other means. Kids today have access to, and are comfortable with, many devices that we couldn’t have imagined when we were teenagers. They navigate these technologies much more fluently than most adults. This can cause a language barrier between kids and their parents, sometimes keeping parents from understanding the cyberbullying that might be going on.

During one of my last years teaching fourth grade I had a group of students who were particularly smart and savvy, and had the potential to become victims of bullying or bullies themselves. To integrate technology and to educate these students about bullying, I gave them the assignment of creating anti-bullying videos. They researched different types of bullying, including cyberbullying, and worked in small groups to write simple scenes depicting a specific type of bullying. After writing and practicing, they recorded videos of their plays. They watched all the videos, and then talked with the principal about broadcasting them on the school-wide morning announcements. The videos were well received, and my students enjoyed being movie stars. They also saw a decline in the amount of bullying around school, especially on the playground.

School is important, and educating students about bullying is just as important as teaching reading, writing, and math. Teaching what not to do is only part of the solution. Teaching students what to do when they are bullied or see bullying happening to others is even more important.

Digital Citizenship – Week 3

The topic for this week, Copyright, was of interest to me. I feel like I am a very ethical person, but besides my values, I don’t know much about what I can and can’t do in terms of copying or using materials in my classroom. Just the description and example that Billie Ann gave in our web conference was very eye-opening to me. I hadn’t ever thought about teaching my students how to correctly use a resource when writing a report. I don’t know that I ever learned the right way myself! Her idea of having students read an article entirely and then close their computer and write a bulleted list of everything that they remembered was very eye-opening. It’s so easy for students to take notes by copying words, phrases, and sentences from a resource.

Stim’s (2017) information about determining fair use was also full of new information for me. Again, I was going off of my values and ethics, which were actually along the same lines that Stim suggests. His four factors to consider – purpose, nature, amount, and effect – clarified for me, and gave me something solid that I can use when working with students and teachers.

Creative Commons is a new concept for me to consider. I’ve noticed the Creative Commons license symbols before, but never knew what they meant. Dylan, Meier, and Cohen (2008) do a great job of explaining Creative Commons in their video. I can understand why there are different licenses for different purposes. Some people may not care about others using their property, while some don’t mind use if properly attributed. When using pictures for assignments while working on graduate school courses, I have typically used a Google search and narrowed the results to those allowed for non-commercial use. I am now beginning to understand when the other types of licenses might be appropriate.

I also learned a lot when reading about the newly appointed Librarian in the Library of Congress. In the report from the Hudson Institute, it is recommended that the Library of Congress be separated from the U.S. Copyright Office. They say that the Library of Congress is ‘badly outdated’ and that the Copyright Office will not be able to focus on the needed updates because they have ‘other priorities.’ While I don’t think that the actual location of the Library of Congress is important, I think that there needs to be some effort put into the necessary updates to bring them into the 21st century. If this can be done while they are part of the Copyright Office, that’s fine. If not, then the Library of Congress needs to be a different entity entirely. The most important thing is to modernize our copyright laws, especially to make specific rules pertaining to material on the internet.

 

Dylan, J. (Director), & Meier, M., & Cohen, P. (Producers). (2008, July 30). A Shared Culture [Video file]. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DKm96Ftfko

Hudson Institute. (2015). A 21st Century Copyright Office: The Conservative Case for Reform. Washington, DC: Tepp, Steven and Oman, Ralph.

Stim, R. (2017, April 10). Measuring Fair Use: The Four Factors. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/four-factors/

Digital Citizenship – Week 2

At my school, almost all students have a device. Many teachers use Google Classroom to assign and collect student work. Sometimes they assign documents for students to complete, but many times they also assign websites or videos for students to view. In the Net Neutrality debate, it is difficult to think about the fact that students may have better access to certain resources or restricted access to others, based on the internet provider we use in our district. Although teachers love Google Classroom, they know that they can’t assign homework or missed classwork to students because most don’t have internet access and/or devices at their homes. I believe that everyone should have access to what they need on the internet, without anyone deciding for them what they can and can’t view.

Net neutrality is important to education, and to the future of our communication and learning. If companies can filter and control what we see online, our view of the world will become skewed. To make appropriate, educated decisions we need to be given all the information and multiple views and opinions. If the facts that we’re given are only those that we want to see, it will cause arguments, disagreements, and unrest between groups that already don’t know how to get along with one another. I think one of the most important life skills that we can teach in school is how to consider things from different points of view and look at things from multiple perspectives. This is even more important now that we must review information for credibility before we take it as fact. Everyone needs to be given the same (correct, true) information for us to live and work together.

Most people get their news from social media now, not from the newspaper. In the video about ‘filter bubbles’ by Eli Pariser ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8ofWFx525s ), we were told that what we see online can be ‘tailored’ to us based on our internet use. Because of this, the news that we get online, especially on social media, will most likely be skewed!

Think about all that we use ‘computers’ for now – banking, education, communicating, etc. Computers have become more than just desktops. They are in our pockets and on our wrists. Most of us couldn’t imagine life without them. I know I feel ‘naked’ when I am without my phone for some reason! When we think about our students today, we need to keep this in mind. The way that we teach and the content that we teach needs to be different than it was in the 80s. Today we can look things up easily on our devices. We don’t need to memorize content. What we need to be teaching our students is how to find appropriate, relevant, credible information online.

A digital footprint is the tracks that you leave behind when on the internet. When we’re posting things on social media, it is an intentional footprint that we leave – we can decide to post positive or negative things. Sometimes, however, a friend or acquaintance might post something about us – a picture or information – that they don’t have permission to post. This leaves an unintentional footprint, but it’s something that is still associated with your name. An unapproved negative post referring to you or with your picture can be detrimental to your career or your social life. To maintain a positive digital footprint, people should be sure that only positive things are posted about them, and that they post only positive things.

I can’t believe I’ve never Googled my name! It turns out there are other Kari Maurers out there. I only saw positives about myself, and mostly the search just brought up social media accounts, which was no surprise. I have a few social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. The search brought up a link to Instagram also, although I thought I no longer had an account there. Regardless, all the content I saw was appropriate and positive, and it was all information that I posted. I am comfortable with it being viewed by anyone, because I am very careful about what I post.

Digital Citizenship – Week 1

Our first web meeting this week gave a great overview of the expectations and objectives of this course. There is a lot of reading! It sounded like some people, like me, were still waiting on the books that they had ordered, and had not been able to begin reading Digital Citizenship in Schools by Ribble (2015) yet. I’m on track now, though!

When we were discussing the importance of digital citizenship, a few people commented on the story about the Harvard students whose admission was revoked due to the content of their social media posts. This is a great example of how digital anonymity can lead people to do negative things. It shows the importance of teaching our students about digital citizenship! I also liked the comments about how many positive things can come from digital tools, but that those positives need to be ‘tempered’ with rules.

When thinking about my school, the digital citizenship element that stands out is digital access (Ribble, 2017). The students come from a low-income area, and I know that many of them do not have access to computers or the internet at home. If they can use a device, it’s often a phone. Luckily, our school has almost 1:1 access with iPads and Chromebooks, so all students have access there. Teachers are unable to use technology fully, though, because they can’t expect their students to do homework online or continue online class activities at home. This makes it even more important to incorporate digital citizenship instruction into everything we do.

Is digital citizenship the same thing as citizenship? I’m not sure. I really like the way Darren Kuropatwa (2015) explained digital citizenship – more like digital ethics. Ethics is part of citizenship, but citizenship goes deeper. Terry Heick (2013) refers to the Merriam Webster dictionary to define citizenship as ‘the quality of an individual’s response to membership in a community.’ However, when I dug deeper, I found that was only one of the definitions they give. The other definitions are ‘membership in a community’ and ‘being a citizen.’ I explored the definition of citizen and found ‘inhabitant of a city or town,’ ‘one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman,’ and ‘a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it.’ That is the definition that comes to mind when I think of citizenship, which is why I don’t think citizenship and digital citizenship are the same. I do, however, feel that digital citizenship is that part of citizenship that Heick (2013) refers to, which to me is more like digital ethics. As Kuropatwa (2015) said, this is not a simple conversation, and what is more important than a definition is the fact that we’re talking about it. I’ll agree with Ribble (2015) for now, and think of digital citizenship as ‘the norms of appropriate responsible behavior with regard to technology use.’

 

Heick, T. (2013, May 2). The Definition of Digital Citizenship. [web log post]. Teach Thought: We grow teachers. Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/digital-citizenship-the-future-of-learning/the-definition-of-digital-citzenship/.

Kuropatwa, D. (2015, July 16). Digital Ethics and Digital Citizenship #BLC15 [YouTube]. The Brainwaves Digital Anthology. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbMsbxYvr4E.

Ohler, J. (2012). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital age. Education Digest: Essential Readings Condensed for Quick Review, 77(8), 14-17. (PDF: Ohler_Digital_citizenship_means_character_education_2012.pdf).

Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools: nine elements all students should know. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.

Ribble, M. (2017). Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship. [web log post]. Digital Citizenship: Using technology appropriately.  Retrieved from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html.

Digital Learning and Leading is Living up to its Title!

As I’m coming to the end of my graduate work at Lamar, I can’t help but think how appropriate the name of this degree is. I am learning so much about best practices in a digital, 21st century classroom!

When I first started my innovation plan, it felt very shallow. I wasn’t sure what campus I would be working on or who I would be working with. I felt like I couldn’t make my innovation plan REAL yet. At my new campus this year, I love that the teachers almost all have 1:1 devices in their classrooms. They know of amazing ways to use the iPads and Chromebooks, and I’ve learned a lot from them!!

Just recently, our kinder, first, and second grade teachers were given the opportunity to try out an online math program. My principal let me take the lead on rolling the program out to teachers. I knew this was my opportunity to see if anyone had any interest in blended learning. I sent out a video introduction of the program, and at the end of my recording I mentioned the possibility of teachers incorporating the online math resource into a blended learning classroom. Throughout the last few weeks, I have been stopping by classrooms and watching students interact with the math program. The students love it and the teachers are able to get great data about the math skills and concepts that their students are grasping or struggling with.

One teacher asked me to tell her more about blended learning. After our conversation, she has decided that learning more about blended learning and incorporating it into her classroom next year is her goal. She wants to read and learn over the summer, and start the year off using her iPads more effectively in her classroom. This conversation has made my innovation plan have a purpose. I now have a teacher and a classroom full of second graders to plan and work for. It’s no longer just a vision, but a true plan. And I have some work to do!

In reading about blended learning I have discovered that I am on the right track. The research and literature that I have read and discussed in my literature review was helpful in pointing out some things that work well in a blended learning classroom, and some things that have not worked well. I feel lucky to be able to learn from what others around the globe have discovered!

What I’ve learned:

  • It’s not just about the technology
  • One type of device doesn’t work for all learners
  • It’s important to be ready technologically for lots of use
  • We need to continue to monitor our students’ learning and behavior
  • Students are motivated by blended learning
  • Mobile devices can be used for blended learning
  • Teachers need training on implementing blended learning effectively
  • Professional development can be done in a blended format
  • Professional development has the most impact when it is ongoing

I can now begin the work of updating my innovation plan, with a specific teacher in mind. This is where the leading part of the degree title begins!