ICE on Fire

Yesterday, I took a risk. I shared my first Ignite Talk at the Indiana Connected Educator Conference. I am not a performer. For the last several years, I’ve been working hard at overcoming public speaking fears. I really wanted to share my message, so I said yes when I was invited even though I knew what it would mean. I didn’t let myself stand behind the lectern with my prepared speech. I felt compelled to try my best to stand with my colleagues out on the stage. And my goodness, they are amazing colleagues!

I can’t wait until ICE is able to share the talks because you will get to hear and see:

  • Eric Johnson share where being open to Twitter in the classroom led his elementary students.
  • Tricia Hall on fire about Breakout EDU.
  • Lance Yoder throwing down 4 letter words–most importantly, blog, and why we need to get over our reaction to blogging with students.
  • Dyan Phillips share how her students are using apps in her art classes. She focused on her genuine practice of being a learner. (I seriously cannot wait for this talk to be shared!)
  • Brian Tonsoni blow away building brackets with students. I’m not a sports follower, but the places Brian and his students went with this project are amazing!
  • Curt Schleibaum get all Googley AND encourage others to do the same. Curt shared his recent experience of becoming a Google Certified Innovator. We share a passion for encouraging more Indiana educators to pursue the same. It’s an incredible process and the relationships you build…Curt did a great job.
  • Chris Young not only host the Ignite keynote for ICE on Fire, but share his approach to tech integration, Teach Like a Student. It oozed #EdTechHeroes style.

There is a small part of me that wished I had stayed behind the lectern and just stuck with the script because I am really passionate about this work and much of my message did not come through. Almost immediately after passing off the mic, I knew I wanted to share the text that I had intended to bring to life. Here it is in 20 snippets. You can either use the Options gear to show speaker notes or scan the text below.

I come to you today with a short story, a big challenge, and a spark hopefully powerful enough to ignite your next steps in teaching digital citizenship.

I began wrestling with this topic in 2009 as a new eLearning coach.  While I found my answers through action research, helping others come to their own understanding often left me feeling like this. I was an English teacher for a reason!

So naturally, I turned to metaphors. When I began serving as your eLearning Development Specialist in 2012, I focused on the value of forming your own metaphor for digital citizenship. But the reality was that people just wanted me to provide them a solution.

I realized that I needed to reframe the problem: Building a Better Digital Citizen Begins with Me. Building requires a plan, tools, and skills.  When you set out to build something, one typically thinks of improving on what currently exists.

I feel like I can say with certainty thanks to the transformation of phones and how we use them that we are all digital citizens. In most cases, becoming a digital citizen is a default setting.

What makes us better digital citizens? Going into the settings and making choices that will improve functionality, make us (and those around us) happier, and potentially change the way we use our tools.     

You simply don’t know what you don’t know, so it’s essential that we engage in this new world where in effect we’re risk takers. The better digital citizen is informed. (And not afraid to seek help when needed.)

The better digital citizen is compelled to be a positive contributor in their digital communities. The better digital citizen not only recognizes that the scale of their reach is magnified online, they embrace it.

Why does it begin with me? The kids are watching us. They learn from us whether we are purposefully teaching or not. We cannot afford to be well-intentioned, but uninformed.

What do you need to learn more about? Are you familiar with Mike Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship?  Now, nine might sound like a lot, but they boil down to Respect, Educate, and Protect.

We might be able to lock down devices in our classroom, but how does that help our students when they climb into the driver’s seat of a car? Do we not have the perfect opportunity to teach mindfulness, restraint, and sustained attention?

The gap between how students use their devices and how they COULD use them in school will only continue to grow, if we don’t take an interest in our students’ digital lives and begin to leverage the tools at their disposal. We set the tone in the classroom, and I believe that our influence extends beyond those walls.

Where do I start? First, shed any negative assumptions you hold about online behavior. There’s no ignoring that users have and will make poor choices, but our responsibility as educators is to see mistakes as learning opportunities.

Second, get in the habit of using content licensed through Creative Commons. Educate yourself and your students about the public domain and their rights as content creators. Fair use issues will become less about legality and more about ethics.

Third, embrace the action verbs in the ISTE Standards for Teachers. Stop EXPECTING students to do the right thing. It is time to relinquish the passive attitude that they know better or that because they signed an acceptable use policy it’s not yours to teach.

Above all else, design opportunities for students to build their digital identity.  Engage students in curating the mass amounts of information at their fingertips, allow them to publish their work, and promote collaboration.

Building a Better Digital Citizen Begins with Me. Of course, you need the confidence to step out there and begin the work. It can be scary if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Every building needs an architect with a vision and your school is no exception If you don’t have a vision for digital citizenship, form a team and ask yourselves, what is it you want students to be able to do via technology.

With a vision in place, you can draw up the blueprints. Members of your team could then shift into the role of foreman–and ask what tools will be needed? What skills will your construction crew require? And how will you ensure everyone is trained and prepared?

All you need now is the confidence to begin the work. It is time to build a better digital citizen. It begins with me. And it begins with you. What will be your next step?

That’s what I intended for the audience to hear yesterday morning. What I take away from this experience is that tech once again came to the rescue by allowing me to publish this, but more importantly, the relationships–the support of my incredible PLN empowered me to take a risk. They encouraged me before, during, and after. Thank you #INeLearn.

The Problem with Tech vs. Paper and Pencil Reasoning

It’s Indiana Digital Citizenship Week. I’ve been looking forward to this week for ages. Much of this week, I’ve been stalking the Twitter stream to see how classroom, schools, and districts are participating. Each evening, my family has endured my enthusiasm as I highlight finds and speculate about the impact of this effort.  Last night was a bit different. For most of the day I was away from my devices, my team hosted the Greet and Treat at the Department of Education. It was an opportunity for other teams to come and learn about our work. Most everyone I meet wonders what the Office of eLearning does-and colleagues are no exception. If you visit any of our social media profiles, you find our condensed mission statement: Working across the state to improve student outcomes through the intentional use of technology. But over time, I’ve begun to wonder myself…what does that even mean.

By default, when we tie a mission or a vision to student outcomes, the immediate correlation is assessment outcomes. Why we equate our kids to assessments is a systematic problem, and sadly one that we have hardly begun to chip away at. With all that in mind, I should be more understanding when educators lament how integrating technology into the classroom is actually causing students to do worse on tests, but I’m not. I feel frustrated, misunderstood, and I fight off wanting to respond, We are NOT working across the state to improve student test scores through the intentional use of technology. The answer is much more complex than that and I realize that how we present our work doesn’t necessarily help our argument. (Seriously, I feel Brian Knight‘s and the ETCoaches blogging challenges calling my name so I force myself to stay focused on this in a more meaningful way.)

It was what happened in #INeLearn Chat last night that caused me to wake up with my ah-ha 8 hours after the conversation. Actually, it was more like three days after a string of conversations came together for me in my unconscious rest. We have to stop comparing technology integration to what could be done with pencil and paper. Here’s my laundry list of reasons:

  1. The problem with with Tech vs. Paper and Pencil Reasoning is that it assumes that we are simply substituting one tool for the other.
  2. When we assume we are substituting one tool for another we get trapped in the simplicity of thinking that kids and teachers simply need to learn how to use the new tool. As a result, we think that if we train them how to use the device, how to use the software, how to access their shiny new accounts, that all will be well and integration will be smooth.
  3. When we believe that training teachers and kids on how to use a tool is enough, then we failed to address that if instruction doesn’t change; if learning isn’t transformed, that all we have done is complicate matters. Now we are dependent on good connectivity. Now we are dependent on making positive digital citizenship a part of our school culture. Now we have to deal with the consequences of not having done those things.
  4. When we get overwhelmed with the risks and the challenges that come with providing our students with devices in the classroom, we begin to accept the rationale that there are times it’s easier or more appropriate to use paper and pencil rather than technology.

Okay, I’m going to let that sink in for a second. I mean, don’t we all think that sometimes?

What’s the danger in that? It’s true isn’t it?

I still love my old books. If you check my Amazon account, you’ll find that I still buy paperback-even the occasional hard copy. But I LOVE my digital downloads too. When friends have babies, I buy them books not app cards. I make decisions about use, convenience, and meaning. Print books hold sentimentality for me. I’m not sure if it will be in my day that they become relics, but I know that they will. I mean seriously, how many of you have scrolls stashed away in your house or classroom? Think about it. Not all that long ago in the timeline of civilization was a group of people who could not conceive that some printing device would ever replace the art of writing out text…you see where I’m going here.

When we say that we appreciate a handwritten note over an email, we are simplifying things. What if someone were to compose a digital appreciative message that managed to not only thank you, but in turn inspire and uplift hundreds, possibly millions of others? Would it have been better that they wrote you a thank you note? Would it somehow have meant more?  Of course not. We have to stop introducing these arguments into the conversation about technology integration in schools.

Let’s focus on those authentic things we need students to learn. How can the devices that they have access to transform how they interact with content? How can they enable students to see learning as a process and not simply a final product? When we contemplate these questions, I think it becomes clear that the answers involve more than seeing technology as an alternative to paper and pencil. We must see that teachers need more than training to be effective in integration. We have to be prepared to rethink what we have experienced and known about school all our lives.

Today is the last day of the first Indiana Digital Citizenship Week. I cannot express how much it means to me that Indiana educators and students have engaged in the celebration. I’ve said it several times this week, they are what brought the event to life. I am so grateful. The #INDigCitWeek hashtag will sit quietly waiting for next year. But, hopefully that’s the only part of the week that will go up on a shelf or be put away in a drawer. Monday should be the first day in continuing the work of living out your school’s vision for digital citizenship.

I won’t be able to send everyone a handwritten note, but know that you made a difference this week. And I appreciate you!