When I was at ASCD Empower 17, I picked up some great books. One book in particular, Master the Media by Julie Smith, was chosen with a specific purpose. The week after I returned from the conference, I was scheduled to lead a PTSA general meeting to discuss social media and tools used by students in their classes. After reading the entire book during my flights home, I completely revamped the plan for my presentation.
I highlighted and tagged multiple points that were made in the book, researched some more on the overall ideas presented in the text so I had additional materials to refer to, and found a quote that summed the whole presentation up perfectly. "We can’t change the message or the sender, but we can educate the receiver." This quote demonstrates the idea I wanted to highlight perfectly. It is not our job as parents or educators to sensor, but instead to teach students to think critically about what they see in the media regardless of the form of media they are engaged with. (Keep in mind that I work with high schoolers, of course we should not just show everything in the media unfiltered to young children who don't yet understand it.)
We had a lower than hoped for attendance, but it gave me the opportunity to have an in depth discussion with the group who attended. I was able to engage with parents who had a great deal to share and ask about the topic. We talked about ways parents and teachers can talk to students about being critical and responsible when they interact with media. One point that was of specific interest during this conversation was the spread of fake news. In the discussion it was pointed out that many individuals who re-post stories they see on Social Media do not actually read the story which means they defiantly don't check to see if the source of the information is reliable. We talked about how teachers and parents can discuss these kinds of things with students.
This conversation with parents, along with conversations I have had with teachers and students has led to a collaborative project that my school's media specialist and I plan to work on with hopes of implementing next year. We want to put together a program that would help teach students how to be more aware of how media really works and what they can do to be savvy media consumers and responsible media producers and distributors. Currently, we are trying to come up with a plan to integrate these ideas into material already being taught in each grade level.
While there are programs out there to teach students these things, we have found that they don't necessarily lend themselves to becoming part of what is already being done in the classrooms. Instead they are set up as separate pieces that need to be added to the curriculum. Well, the curriculum for most classes is already jammed with skills, and material students need for mandated tests. It seems easier to find a way to integrate what is already done with the skills students need to be able to navigate media and social media. It's a work in progress.
But, if you are looking to better understand the media culture we live in today, you really should start with Julie Smith's book Master the Media. It is an interesting and easy to read text that helps to explain the way the media works and how we can begin conversations with children of any age.
So you're not in a 1:1 or BYOD school. Maybe your tech availability is scarce or non existent. You can still teach students digital citizenship. Teaching kids to be good, responsible citizens has always been a goal of teachers and many schools are able to use social media and digital tools to accommodate this, but others are not as lucky.
1. Social Media Summary
When you want students to show that they understand the main idea of a text or a lesson, use social media rules to have students demonstrate their understanding of the piece. Let them know that they have to sum the text up as a Twitter post (140 characters or less). You could have them go even further by creating a hashtag for the piece. Students can share their posts by passing them around the room where sticky notes, stickers, or simple drawings could suffice for likes. If you want students to comment, flip the paper over and leave a reply!
2. Hashtag Havoc
Teach students to summarize their feelings, activities, or events using hashtags. Post a question of the day or question of the week on the wall and have them create hashtags that reflect their attitudes toward the subject. For example, post the statement “I am most proud of…” and you may see hashtags like #footballskills #spellingbeechamp #Aonmytest!
3. Paper Based Twitter Chat
Twitter chats are a great way to discuss topics. If you have not been a part of a Twitter chat, find one for educators by going to this website. Twitter chats usually follow the Q1- A1 format. Someone posts a question with Q1 in front of it, while responses are labeled with A1. All questions and answers are grouped together through a hashtag. If you are not comfortable with students answering questions on Twitter, they are too young to have an account, or you don’t have access to computers you can do this using chart paper and papers or notecard. Post four or five topic related questions, in the Twitter format around your room on large chart paper. Have students move from one question to the other answering those questions as Twitter chat responses using note cards or paper taped to the large chart paper. After everyone has posted, allow students to rotate around the room again to post replies to the responses of others. You could also give students markers or stickers to add likes to posts as they read through posts.
The purpose of these activities is not to find new ways to engage students in class topics or share their accomplishments, they also allow for conversations about how to appropriately participate in online discussions and how to use social media positively.
I hear it everyday, "I can't wait till June!" I know that I have even said it myself a few times in the last week or so. While the sentiment is completely understandable, it also sends a message to the students that you are ready to be done and move on, which in most cases means no longer having them in class. This is something I really have to work on myself because sometimes my brain works in the realm of, "What is next. What can I do better next time?" When I should still be saying, "What can I do tomorrow to make things better?"
We have a reading teacher in our school who will be retiring at the end of this school year. Of course she is excited to retire and move on to a different way of spending her time, but she is 100% into each and every day she has left with her students. Over the last two weeks, she has been someone I aspire to be more like. She could choose to find easy to implement lessons that would allow her to finish out the school year with little stress, but instead she has been having me come in to co teach lessons with her. She continues to ask about new activities and strategies she can use in her classes. She even asks for activities that will allow her students to use technology that she will have to work to understand herself. I am truly amazed with her ambition to make sure that every student gets all of her energy up to the last minutes she will be teaching.
This is how we should all aspire to be even when the clock is ticking away the final minutes of the school year. It is tempting to pop in a movie the days following standardized test, but let's start rethinking that time or any dead time for that matter. This is a perfect opportunity to work with students on important elements that are not on those tests. Why not take this time to try a breakout edu, facilitate class discussions about digital citizenship, talk to kids about the social issues they wish could be fixed and look up how they can get involved to fix them, or any number of other things that we wish we had the time to do but don't during the standard class times. We need to shift our thinking away from, "Well we are done with what we needed to do this year," to "What can we do together in the time we have left?"
When Snapchat rolled out it quickly acquired a bad reputation for the social media site you used to hide pictures and messages. People used it and quickly learned that when these items "disappear" it's not always forever. Yesterday, Instagram released a new version of Instagram Direct (a feature that allows users to send direct messages to each other) that allows for both permanent messages and those that will eventually disappear in the same feed. Both of these types of direct messages were available separately before, they are just now in the same feed. Text messages cannot be set to disappear, but users can add text to a blank image as a work around.
Last week, I met with the parents at my school about social media and internet usage. The disappearing message and image feature was discussed at length. Parents are concerned that when students see this, they assume the image or message will be gone forever and seemed to be the reason why parents preferred their children to be on Instagram over Snapchat (at least that was the conversation we had). As teachers and parents, we have to make students aware that nothing they post or send is ever really private. SMS text messages, emails, and private social media messages all run the risk of being sent out to the public.
Of course, I would never suggest keeping students away from any social media or application. I just think this is another reason to be having these conversations and using social media responsibly in the classroom. We have to demonstrate what positive usage looks like, and we have to share with students that just because something disappears doesn't mean it goes away forever.
Here is the link to the full story from Tech Crunch about Instagram's update.
Ahhh, the technology isn't working! It happens, and this year, it seems that my teachers have had to deal with it more often than normal. When I was in the classroom I tried to have back up plans when I knew I was going to be using a technology heavy lesson. This seems like a harder and harder task as we start to rely on tech tools more and more on a daily basis. In thinking about this problem recently, I realized that there is a way I used to address similar problems in my classroom.
I am a planner and I like to be ready for any contingency. Add that to my goal of not waisting classroom instructional time and I ended up planning emergency lessons that could be subbed in if ever there was a reason why I had to call in a sub at the last minute. To ensure the activities were relevant to the material we were working on, I made a point to create a sponge activity for each unit I planned. For example, during a Shakespeare unit I used a project that required students to create a cell phone that might be owned by one of the characters from the play. Students had to choose a background picture, locked screen picture, 5 apps, 3 songs, and show one text conversation with another character. Then they had to be prepared to defend their reasoning for their choices. The beauty of this activity is that it can be effective as a paper based activity so the sub would not need computers to allow students to complete it.
Having a paper based, sponge activity for each unit could be a great way to save teachers from losing a day due to technology breaking down. Because it seems to be a rule, the day you most need the tech to work is the day it will let you down!