Course 2 Final Project – Global Collaboration

Course 2 Final Project – Global Collaboration

Addressing the 21st century skills of Digital Citizenship are important; to help students to learn, communicate and collaborate safely and responsibly. To say the learning in Course 2 is extremely important in this technological day and age is an understatement.

Here is my reflection on the Course 2 Final Project.


Seeing as I’ve been down this path before, I was not overly concerned with finding someone to work with for the Final Project. I think the bigger question in mind was whether I would choose Option 1 or Option 2. Having previously worked with Jay Prohaska on a Responsible Use Agreement in the Cohort 2, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work on another RUA or create a unit planner on the enduring understanding of this course that helps teach students about 21st Century Literacy Ideas, Questions, and Issues. On the one hand, I was looking forward to creating a better RUA as I believe the one Jay and I collaborated on could use a refresh. It’s still being used at school, but I’m just looking for something better as our Tech Dept. is in the midst of finalising policies and agreements for students and staff member alike. On the other hand, the opportunity to create a unit planner centered around digital citizenship is something we could dearly use at school. It is one area above all that I think that needs immediate attention where I work.

How do you connect with others? Where can you go to make that connection or look for a connection?

In order to collaborate for this project, I needed to connect with others in the Cohort. Being a member of the COETAIL Google+ community, I noticed Blair Lockhart posted a doc for peers to sign up and connect. So I did just that, and within the week a few members contacted me about their ideas.

First, I received an email from Fiona. She noticed my name on the Google doc and wondered if I was still looking for partners to collaborate with.

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Along with her colleague Trina and former colleague Danelle, they were looking at finding a fourth person to join their group on Option 2. Together, they were keen to design a unit of study around a Grade 4 online book club. They envisioned a unit that integrated the understandings and standards identified in Course 2, namely:

  • The communication tools that exist today are powerful mediums to help spread positive change and global awareness
  • Online behaviours and actions impact the access and safety of personal information
  • Responsible use of online tools can help protect the personal information of others

as well as relevant standards for reading and oral/visual communication. At first I wasn’t too sure about what they hoped to accomplish, but through a series of back and forth emails (more than 60 in the end) I came to conclusion that they’re idea for this unit was very powerful and something I believed teachers at my school would be interested in using.

In addition to Fiona’s email, Danieal, who had emailed Robert asking about suggestions for someone to work with, also sent me a message. An elementary teacher like myself, she was keen to work with someone else focused on younger aged students. As the only educator in her school who has gone 1:1 in an iPad environment, she was eager to learn, inspire, and prove to her Admin that this is the path to 21st century learning. We initially went back and forth with ideas and had a difficult time deciding whether to create an RUA or a Unit Planner centred around iPad use. By the time we got around to agreeing though, I had already said yes to working with Fiona, Trina and Danelle. However, I was OK with the idea of taking on a second project, crazy as that may seem, and continued to check in with Danieal to see if she wanted to proceed. I was still intrigued by the idea of creating a new RUA, and the thought of a unit designed for iPads was of interest.

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In the end though, she found another group to work with and that was probably best, as I don’t think I would have been able to give a second project my full attention.

The Plan

Our plan was to collaborate in order to develop a Grade 4 unit of study for reading that uses book blogs as a platform upon which to teach the knowledge and skills that can help students develop a positive digital presence. We thought reading would be a good curriculum area to choose for a collaborative project because the units of study were likely to be more consistent between the three schools.

As mentioned above, the idea was that we would incorporate the ISTE standards which we were exploring in Course 2, as well as relevant language arts standards relating to reading, writing and oral/visual communication. We would then teach to those standards through a shared reading book (agreed upon by the 3 schools) and have our students post their learning on their individual blogs. The pre-teaching would include aspects such as creating a visually appealing blog, with the unit itself moving towards writing multiple blog entries, uploading and attributing images, creating and uploading podcasts, and commenting on other students’ blogs.

google-docs-logoTo kick things off, we used Kim Cofino’s Step by Step Guide to Global Collaborations as a planning tool to guide the collaborative process. I thought that was a great idea by Trina and Fiona to begin and framework our planning from the outset. It provided a nice structure to set up a successful unit.

Through a Skype conversation, our project really took hold. Prior to the call, Fiona had emailed Rebekah about our project idea. During their back and forth exchanges, Rebekah had suggested that we take a look at Quadblogging.

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I had heard the term before, but never fully investigated it. Upon review, it appeared like a solid idea, and a new tool to present to my own staff. For those who don’t know about Quadblogging, it’s a concept that was developed by Nelson Thorne. For it to work, 4 classes need to sign up to be part of the ‘quad’. Each week one class is the focus class, with the other 3 visiting and commenting on their blogs. This concept provides students with a guaranteed audience within their Quadblogging community. For us, we decided there was no need to sign up for a Quad as we would just use the concept as a framework for our own collaboration.

As we went on adding details to our shared doc, I came to the idea when reading the ‘Design Matters’ aspect on Kim’s post that creating a website would be a good addition to the project. I spent some time using her post as a model for my site creation, which is hosted on our servers at ICHK HLY. I titled the site Global Collaboration for the purpose of this assignment. It can be changed at any time if need be. I added all the details I thought would be necessary for the various schools to use as a platform for the unit, both in the drop-down menu bar and as actionable buttons pictured here:

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On the sites itself, you can find more information about the actual unit, details about Quadblogging and how this unit can be broken down into set weeks. There are no posts yet, but I envision teachers using the website to add their weekly details hers for the participants to read and follow along. Most of the individual student sites are linked up to the site for easy navigation. Once RVIS creates their students sites, I will add them into the site so students can easily find their quadblogging friends.

Like myself, both Trina and Fiona are specialists at RVIS with no class of their own. Danelle, however, is in her second year at SIS teaching Grade 4. For this unit to work, the Grade 4 teachers at RVIS and ICHK HLY would need to join Danelle’s class in this online project.

Teachers would teach a series of parallel reading lessons targeting one or two reading standards and then have students blog in response to a focus question. This would ensure that their blog writing provide evidence of their learning around the target standards.

One class would be the focus class each week, answering a question presented by their teacher and available on our Global Collaboration website. The other 3 classes would then comment on their posts as they too are reading the same book in their class. Students in each class would also blog themselves and share their responses to the posed question. Students in their own individual class could also comment on one additional post of a classmate so that everyone has at least one comment to moderate. The focus class would have multiple comments to reply to however. This model could be changed at any time, depending on how the teachers see fit. If they feel it’s too much, then they could reduce the number of comments made by students to others in their class.

The End Product

Collaboration is something I thoroughly enjoy, but when you’re working across different time zones with varying school schedules, it’s a challenge to say the least. It also seems a common theme when reading other Cohort members blogs. In the beginning I really wasn’t sure how this final project would turn out. I had quite a few questions myself regarding how this literacy unit would develop and be received from teachers at my school. The introduction of Quadblogging though, which I had only heard of in passing before, really peaked my interest. To me it seems like a great way to digitally collaborate across communities by providing a platform for our students to learn through relationships. I think students will enjoy sharing their voice, engaging in digital conversation, and meaningful collaboration with students across learning communities and authentic audiences.

I believe this unit was a great success. Not only did we all bring something different to the table, but we completed a unit project that we can be used by the Grade 4 teachers at our schools this year.

Projects like these take hard work and I’m very appreciative of all the efforts Fiona, Trina and Danelle made. In working together, I learned quite a lot. I had my reservations about doing a unit, but in the end I’m very satisfied with how it has all turned out.


Inspired Teachers, Empowered Learners

Inspired Teachers, Empowered Learners

Technology is such a big part of the world in which we live. That is no secret. Virtually every job, company, and industry today, tech goes way beyond programming and equipment maintenance. Many of the jobs that did not require technology use in years past now require certain skill sets. And in many, it’s actually expected to have a handle on the use of technology over a surprisingly wide range of roles. We are an evolving technological society and in many ways have become dependent on its use. With all of that in mind, the question that needs asking is…

How can we, as educators, empower students to use technology to make a positive impact in their world?

Most students use some form of technology on a daily basis. As more and more devices enter the market, students are learning the power that these devices afford them. The ability to text, share messages on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, and surf the web are interesting avenues for students to explore and have their voices heard. It’s these very tools, that if used in meaningful and intellectually engaging ways, can transform the classroom into an interactive learning environment where students feel empowered to make a difference.

Let’s be honest though, it’s not only students who are benefitting from the use of technology; teachers, administrators and parents and are too. I recently read an article by Sal Khan on Fast Company titled, 4 Ways Technology Can Help Empower Teachers And Students. It’s his belief, and I agree wholeheartedly with it, that Edtech should be a means, not an end, to improving our education system. Too often it’s not though. Too often it’s seen as the problem, and not the solution. In his article, Khan points out 4 ways in which that goal can be achieved.

1: Empowering teachers to provide more focused, personalized instruction
2: Providing space for social and emotional learning
3: Giving teachers a window into what’s working
4: Reaching more students in more places

Let’s discuss each of these points.

Often at school I hear teachers complain that when computers are added to the lesson, student attention is diminished. I’m sure that is natural, we are all inquirers at heart and want to tinker with things that are in front of us. But often what is forgotten by those complaining is the nature of the lesson itself. Was it actually engaging enough to get your students attention in the first place? As mentioned in Khan’s first point, if you take the time to find, create and share high-quality content via technology, then you will free up your time for innovative experiences and focused interventions with your students.

Technology is not only a tool, but an important catalyst to enhance STEM education. Skills such as metacognition, critical thinking, persistence, and self-regulation can all be developed through engaging activities that have purposeful design. I see these skills demonstrated every week in my LEGO EV3 robotics classes. These activities are great for social and emotional learning.

Remember the old pencil and paper assessments where you had to fill in the bubble? Do they still exist? Although they provided useful data, they took ages to actually score. Recently we completed a series of online ACER assessments with our Year 3 to 5 students. The results were immediate and have provided great insight into our students positive and negative emotions and behaviours. Such results help us to inform our instruction and to illustrate any patterns we may have not picked up on. These technological tools empower leadership teams to help improve student achievement.

According to Harvard Business Review, in the last three years, over 25 million people from around the world have enrolled in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered by Coursera, EdX, and other platforms. Of course those numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they are impressive. Their research illustrates the possibilities MOOCs offer to change the educational landscape. Courses are reaching large numbers of people, including disadvantaged learners who are more likely to report tangible benefits. MOOCs are demonstrating that open access to learning experiences can beneficial to furthering education and careers.

What else can technology do…

  • Technology can be used as a tool for establishing meaningful projects to engage students in critical thinking and problem solving.
  • Technology can be used to restructure and redesign the classroom to produce an environment that promotes the development of higher-order thinking skills.
  • Technology also increases student collaboration.
  • Technology empowers connections.
  • Technology…the list goes on and on.
Makers and Coders, by Ross Parker under a CC licence.

Makers and Coders, by Ross Parker under a CC licence.

All of these suggestions are great at detailing how students can be empowered with technology, but what kind of actions are we talking about?

What positive changes are actually happening in the world through the use of technology?

Of course students are making connections through the various mediums available today. Whether it be YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Facebook or even their own blog, students are reaching out and discovering new ways of doing things.

Vicki Davis, possibly better known on the net as @coolcatteacher, proposed 7 Ways to Empower Student Changemakers in her piece looking at Social Entrepreneurship for Edutopia. I think many of these points can extend to the K-6 classrooms at my school.

1. Encourage Each Student to Map Their Heartbreak
Empower social entrepreneurs by sharing stories of students taking action, and then encourage students to find their own passion.

This can be said about anyone, not only social entrepreneurs. Life is much easier when the fire within is self-started. A good teacher can help ignite those passions making student inquiries more meaningful.

2. Help Students Find Their Voice
Encourage students to converse with a wider audience.

Ross Parker, Director of Technology at ICHK, began Teach a Teacher a few years ago with the aim in mind of having students leading a mini-conference for teachers. The goal is to help teachers improve their ICT skills, whilst exposing students to a new classroom perspective. This has been very successful and something students look forward to each year.

EdChats are another great avenue. When shown and demonstrated in class, students can see the tangible benefits of online collaboration in real time.

3. Empower Social Media Sharing
Empower social entrepreneurs with social media and digital citizenship savvy.

Remind students that it’s nice to be a consumer, but more important to be a producer of content. Get them to share their work online and show them the benefits of getting both positive and negative feedback. Make students accountable. Accountability reinforces to students that someone else is watching them and that what they do does matter.

4. Encourage Students to Tell Their Story to a Wider Audience
Help students craft and edit video to tell their stories.

Read a long story or watch a short video? Easy decision for most people. Find time to teach them the skills, or the places to visit online to learn the skills, and then help them create a unique video that tells their story. Technology provides the opportunity to share beyond the playground.

5. Foster Student Generosity
When you see students rally behind a cause, set up donation platforms to let them contribute and help make it happen.

Each year our Year 3 students visit the waters off Lantau Island (HK) to see the pink dolphins. Up until now, I think some of their ‘actions’ have been misguided in bringing attention to these endangered species. Posters get made, speeches are shared in assemblies, but in the end, not much actually gets done. I would like to bring about real change by starting a school donation platform so that the message does not get lost. By showing students the value of these systems (crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter) then hopefully we can do more than just talk about it.

6. Connect Students to Powerful Role Models for Change
Help students create a plan.

Much like blogging, sometimes the hardest thing to do is deciding where to start or who to connect with. Whether it’s a project, or a just an inquiry, source out the experts who can help you locate the answers or additional resources. With the PYP Exhibition coming up, this is one area where I think Mentors play a vital role.

7. Integrate Social Entrepreneurship Into Your Curriculum

Easier said than done for some educators, no doubt. But if you look at your Units of Inquiry, you may find some that naturally this area of focus. In Year 5, we have students inquire into systems of exchange that can serve the needs of a community. Students are placed into groups of 3 to 4 and are tasked with offering a service or creating a product to sell to the public. Students are responsible for the creation of the idea, surveying public opinion, creating the product/service and advertising it. It’s a lot of fun for students to become legitimate entrepreneurs; along the way learning invaluable skills such as how to use technology to improve their products.

In conclusion to this rather long post, I’d just like to finish with a quote by Eric Patnoudes, Education Strategist at CDW-G, who recently stated in EdTech Magazine

“It’s important that (students) know how to share a document, how to collaborate, so on and so forth,” Patnoudes said, “but what’s even more important is why they’re using this technology or that technology to make learning more meaningful, more authentic and provide a purpose behind the learning.”

Inspired teachers will result in empowered students, so give it a try.

Copyright, an Outdated Burden

Copyright, an Outdated Burden

  • Do we as a global society need to rethink copyright laws?

Yes, of course we do. I think the system as it is now, where copyright relies on controlling the uncontrollable – copying and communication – requires a dramatic rethink.

One of the main purposes of copyright is to promote the creation of new works by giving authors certain exclusive rights to that work for limited times so that they may profit from them. However, the current standard copyright terms are much too long to be justified by this underlying objective. According to some, it’s killing innovation and hurting the economy.

As long as a work is restricted by copyright, new creators are severely restricted in their ability to use those materials legally — or completely unable to do so. Therefore the costs of making new works can become a barrier for creators. In countries where there is more flexible fair use, there may be more legal room to use these works. But still, it remains a murky, risky, and grossly inefficient system no matter where you reside.

  • How do we teach copyright in countries where international copyright law is not followed to begin with?
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Screenshot of email I received on December 9th, 2015.

I recently received the above headline in a Breaking News email from the South China Morning Post. According to the article, the Hong Kong government contends that the film, TV and music industries have lost billions to piracy because the copyright law has not been updated since 2006.

Internet users have voiced their complaints and have even vowed to protest if the contentious Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 goes ahead, even if they have been assured that freedom of expression and creation would be protected. Ada Leung, who is the Director of Intellectual Property, has gone on record though in stating that the bill is meant to improve the legal protection of copyrighted works while maintaining the public’s freedom of expression and creation when dealing with such works.

Leung also said,

…those who shared links on social media, adapted videos, songs or pictures, streamed video games, created fan fiction and cosplay, would not be guilty of a crime if their acts fell under the six exemptions – parody, satire, pastiche, caricature, quotation and reporting or commenting on current events.

What does all this mean though for the average teacher here in Hong Kong? Well, for one, if lawmakers can’t agree on a Copyright Bill, then how are teachers really supposed to understand and teach the ethics of copyright and fair use in today’s quickly changing digital landscape?

I think this statement by Leung is a clear indication that piracy will continue, however.

(Leung) doubted the new law would cause a deluge of legal cases as a copyright owner would need strong legal grounds and money to pursue a civil case.

With no legitimate threat of a legal recourse, was it going to stop someone from stealing another person’s work? In my mind, education.

  • What’s our role as educators in copyright usage in schools?

When it comes to copyright usage, our role as educators is extremely important. In most cases, we are their role models. Young people today have more opportunity than ever before to plagiarise or reproduce digital copies. If we demonstrate to them that it is ok to take things off the internet without citing where we found the material, or whom it belongs to, then we aren’t doing our jobs well enough.

We need to be effective copyright role models and regularly acknowledge the efforts of others. We not only need to explain copyright to our students, but promote the idea that it is ‘cool to be legal’. We should make an effort to show children examples of copyright agreements (eg. software) and provide evidence of good legal practice (e.g. proof-of-purchase, bulk software license agreements). If we are passionate about ‘doing the right thing’, then discussing the issues of pirated CDs, shared software, and copyright court cases with local and global implications will be of interest to them.

If we as educators model and encourage feedback ourselves, we will be helping young people develop similar skills. We should include details about copyright in our own work and state clearly any limitations in the use of your own material we are willing to allow. We need to be better at explaining the legal consequences of their actions. Of our actions.

It’s our duty to teach students to respect the intellectual property of others in this digital “cut and paste” world we live in.


flickr photo by Jonas Tana shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

One way to do that is to use Creative Commons. Designed by Lawrence Lessig, Creative Commons is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. Its’ use enables us to span the gap between full copyright and the public domain. The Creative Commons project provides content creators the opportunity to state ahead of time how their images may (or may not) be used.

The following two videos will shed more light on the beauty of CC:

To better understand Creative Commons,

  • It is a way to legally consume, share and remix media.
  • It provides an alternative to the usual school practice of ignoring copyright, and thus allows us to prepare our students for live outside the educational bubble.
  • It is a potent tool for enabling creativity and innovation, without needing to make everything from Scratch.
  • Some useful media for understanding issues related with copyright and its impact on creativity and innovation

Our Tech Director at ICHK, Ross Parker, is as big an advocate of Creative Commons as anyone I know. How big? I’m pretty sure I would be safe in saying that he has CC pyjamas at home! Ross first introduced CC to me a few years ago in one of our tech meetings. Since then, we have been working on trying to instill this mindset in our teachers, students and community members.

In his blog post Creative Commons: What is it?, Ross states

As an educator, you might wonder why you should care about any of this. The reasons are simple. From a philosophical point of view, education is built on knowledge, which is created through sharing. Ergo, anything that promotes sharing is good for education. From a practical point of view, Creative Commons gives you access to literally a billion creative works, which you and your students can build on, legally, to create incredibly rich learning experiences. And finally, you can use Creative Commons to encourage your students to engage with the world around them by contributing their own creativity. A lot of people do not feel that their creations are worth sharing, but the truth is that you never know how other people might use your work to express themselves. Once you realise the true worth of your work within such an open system, the urge to share and connect is hard to resist.

I love how he shares his thoughts on how students may perceive themselves. Quite often I hear those same sentiments in classrooms. The truth is, we’ll never really know how many people will find our work uplifting or worthy of copying. But if students are to learn and apply CC to their work, they’ll begin to appreciate the full potential of the Internet.

Check your Passport

Check your Passport

Students today have access to global information at the tip of their fingertips 24/7. With the limitless power of digital media they are able to learn, create, and share in ways never before possible. They are no longer constrained by time or distance when it comes to education, learning, and their social interactions. With this opportunity, young people have potential to be not only good and industrious but become great and innovative global citizens.

What does that mean?

Citizenship today means making sense of local, national and global events, trends and information, and acting safely, responsibly and ethically in online forums. Digital citizenship is a relatively new and emerging field, and one that many of us educational stakeholders are concerned about. It’s a complex topic that impacts learning and behaviour in a big way. As today’s digital natives move seamlessly between online and offline spaces, educators and school leaders need help making sense of students’ expanded civic responsibilities.

All around the globe schools, teachers, students, and their communities are dealing with issues such as, but not limited to, cyberbullying, digital cheating, safety, and security concerns. These issues highlight the real and present need for students to learn and teachers to teach both digital literacy and global citizenship skills.

Being a citizen of our world’s digital community is a big responsibility. In order to be the best digital citizen you can, it is important to understand that when you go “online”, you are connecting yourself to everyone else in the world with Internet access.

I primarily work with 5-11 year olds, so I would say that the responsibility of introducing digital citizenship should fall on myself and teachers of younger students. Throughout our PYP curriculum here at ICHK HLY, we have units focused on community, laws and expectations. We teach young children that they are part of a school community, so as soon as a device connecting them to the digital community is put into their hands, children learn that they are joining another community. It is this digital community that students need to know just as much about as they do with other communities.

This year I plan to introduce a long-overdue detailed school-wide digital citizenship program. I want to try and get away from the just-in-time teaching of these skills and move towards key learning objectives taught in age-appropriate lessons that addresses digital literacy and citizenship topics. Through various PD sessions, I want staff (both teachers and ATs) to not only understand the the NINE elements of Digital Citizenship, but to see the importance of how digital citizenship is everyone’s responsibility. Ultimately, I want them to transition from positive digital citizens to inspirational digital leaders.

flickr photo shared by sylviaduckworth under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

I would like for staff to refer to the terms as often as possible when using tech tools in the classroom. The key thing I want to stress is how important teaching our young students as early as possible is and how easily we can integrate these ideas into everything we do. Elementary teachers spend a great deal of time teaching social skills and responsibilities without really thinking about it. It is time we make digital citizenship part of the traditional “how to be a citizen” skills we instill already.

For staff, I plan to kick things off with this ‘Amazing Mind Reader’ video that shows a “psychic” who gets very private information about people, only by searching their digital footprint.

This video will make people aware of the fact that their entire life can be found online. It will also generate good discussions amongst the group on privacy and digital citizenship.

From there, I plan to illustrate our working document on tech integration and how we see digital citizenship fitting into our units of inquiry and stand alone subjects. With help from the Scope & Sequence tool developed by Common Sense Education, as well as the numerous resources online, I believe students will come to better understand this new digital community that they’re working with.

One resource I plan to show is by Heidi Weber, who shared her tech presentation with fellow members on the Digital Citizenship forum on ISTE a while back. I plan to create something along the same lines, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I like the line on her last slide where she states, “Make digital citizenship as routine as the other life skills you teach automatically!” So much of what students learn in regards to citizenship, digital or otherwise, is by observing the actions of teacher and other adults. Students learn being polite is important, not just a rule on some list, when teachers are always polite. Students learn citing sources is important when teachers always cite their sources, or they learn citing source is not important when the teacher never does it. Our effectiveness in teaching the digital aspects of citizenship is determined in large part by the extent we can integrate modeling good citizenship in our lives and classroom routines.

Have you checked your ‘digital’ passport lately?

Privacy is an Illusion

Privacy is an Illusion

Photo Credit: gervais_group via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: gervais_group via Compfight cc

The Internet is simply one of the greatest tools ever known to man. It has literally changed the world we live in. It not only has the ability to put an abundance of information at our fingertips with astonishing speed, but connects people in ways we only once dreamt of. It has created a world that is highly digitized; societies which are always “plugged-in” or “turned-on” and cannot live without the affordances it provides.

But let’s be honest, it has come at a cost. It has cost the majority of us our privacy. Some have even gone so far as to put a price tag on that cost. So that begs the question,

Is there such a thing as privacy online?

A simple Google search will say no. There are loads of sites that debate this very topic online…quite the irony. In today’s world with all the technology there is ultimately no such thing as privacy in my mind. People can hack into phones, computers, any type of electronic device and spy on others through things such as bugs and keyloggers. Besides just hacking, calls can be tapped and tracked and computer history can be searched to find just about anything. Security cameras are in most places these days, often without people even being aware. It is very hard to have such a thing as total privacy anymore when really, anyone could be watching or looking into what you are doing very easily.

A video screencast I took of Norse-Corps real-time visibility into global cyber attacks clearly illustrates the growing nature of the world we now live in. A world where data breaches, data leaks and identity theft happen more frequently than reported. Scary stuff.

I think wiseGEEK summed up Digital Privacy nicely…

Though digital privacy is an issue that remains at the forefront of many private citizens’ thoughts as they attempt to navigate the Internet and embrace new technology, official and complete protection remains just out of reach. This is because the idea of privacy in a technological — and, thus, ever-evolving — landscape continues to change meaning. Before the issue can be addressed, there has to be a clear definition of what privacy means in the digital world.

Understandings: Responsible use of online tools can help protect the personal information of others.

Here at ICHK HLY our work to prepare students for a life involving digital technology continues. I have been working closely with classroom teachers to look at how best we can integrate today’s technology while at the same time helping students become inquiring, independent, healthy digital citizens.

Photo Credit: Martin_Heigan via Compfight cc

With the range of digital tools at our disposal today, we can share almost every part of our lives online. With this in mind, here are some of the questions we consider when discussing privacy with our students:

  • Why do we share personal details with others?
  • What are the risks of sharing too much information?
  • How can we control our sharing using privacy settings on sites such as Facebook?
  • What should we not share with members of the public?
    • Geolocation information?
    • Personal photos?
    • Too much personal data
  • Give the ability to turn private into public on the web, should we share anything?
  • Can we trust our friends not to publicise our private shares?
  • What tools do students use to create their online identity?
  • How do students want to project themselves online?
  • What are the advantages of having an online identity?
  • What are the disadvantages of having an online identity?

We want our students to understand that being safe when they visit websites is similar to staying safe in real life. We teach them how to recognize websites that are good for them to visit. We also encourage them to recognize if they should ask an adult they trust before they visit a particular website. Students learn that the information they put online leaves a digital footprint or “trail.” This trail can be big or small, helpful or hurtful, depending on how they manage it.

Does it always go to plan? No, there are always going to be some students who manage to land on sites they shouldn’t. But mistakes provide us with opportunity; opportunity to continue the conversation.

And that’s where the learning is.


What we leave behind…

What we leave behind…

Whether it’s a potential employer, current employer, budding romantic partner, long-time significant other, or someone else in your life, there’s a good chance they have or will run a Google search for your name. Do you know everything that they’ll find?

That was penned by Kim Komando, who recently wrote a Special for USA TODAY titled Why you should Google yourself now. So I did. Here is what I found:

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I didn’t even make the Top 10! Damn. So now I’m conflicted. Should I be happy that my online profile is not appearing in the Top 10 Google results? Or should I be upset that my positive contributions are not ‘out’ there enough for all to see and read about? Hmm…tough call.

It’s hard to argue with the fact that people are getting more and more paranoid by the digital tattoos, digital shadows and digital footprints they are leaving behind all over the internet. Some guy named Edward Snowden had something to do with that I’m sure. And when I think about that USA Today article, I can’t help but think it’s just a headline, a way of selling more newspapers or driving more clicks to their site. I would love to say that blaming the media for our sense of paranoia is the right thing to do, but I can’t. Especially when I read the stats from DOMO on how much data is created every minute. See for yourself, it’s staggering!

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These days, we are encouraged to add lots of information about ourselves onto the internet…photos, art, poetry, videos, blogs, personal profiles. That’s quite clear from the message above. All the while, it’s understood that we are leaving traces of ourselves for other less scrupulous people or companies to find and target. Quite the dichotomy to say the least.

But when I think of this question,

Should you have a digital footprint as an international educators?

I have trouble trying to come up with a reasonable response. On the one hand, are we advocating that it is better for staff and teachers to have a ‘clean’ profile? Are we saying that is a good thing? Should they be commended for their lack of transparency? 

On the other, what are they contributing to the field of education if they’re are not modeling 21st century skills? Do they have something to hide?

aristotle_quote-274012I’m sure these are questions that many management teams have struggled with over the years. Do we choose what appears to be the safe option, or the one who may cause controversy because of their views and their profile of work? Is it possible to find someone with the best mix of both? If there even is one.

For someone like myself, in a leadership role, I campaign for management to hire the best staff possible. People are a resource. In education, they are our best resource. It’s crucial that we find staff members who not only fit in with our community school ethos, but also with our mission and values of a school that is trying to lead in teaching 21st century skills. And that requires seeing their body of work before passing judgment.

How would one help or hinder you if you go looking for a new job?

Even this question makes me wonder, have we not figured it out yet? Surely, over the course of the past 15 years people have read about job opportunities lost due to profiles that were less than ideal. The internet is awash with interesting events of people making poor choices. And on the flip-side, there are those who have done good work and documented their achievements being aptly rewarded with new positions in new environments.

When thinking about jobs and employment, I believe one needs to realize that networking and marketing yourself is the most efficient, successful method to getting the job you want. Setting yourself apart from the rest of the candidate pool and making yourself memorable can be tough, but it can be aided with a positive online presence. A presence that makes you stand out for all the right reasons.

What then are the implications for students and how should we be teaching them to have a positive digital footprint?

I do realise that personal information is routinely collected and kept for years and years by companies wanting to sell us stuff. And that’s one of the many challenges we face in education as EdTech specialists. As a GAFE school, I’m all for productivity and simplification, but when it comes to handing over data to companies just to use their products, I really have to scratch my head and think long and hard about the implications there will be if I accept the terms and conditions of their service. Don’t even start with iTunes. Most of the time I just feel like I’m being violated. But what can I do? What can we do? We can only continue to educate ourselves and our students on how to be aware of the things we are sharing online.

In the readwrite article Calculate Your “Digital Footprint” with New Tool from EMC by Sarah Perez, she concluded with this statement:

In the long run, it will be up to businesses to adapt to these changes and protect their customer’s data. Those that don’t will pay as their clients take their business to safer, more protective businesses elsewhere. And for us, just being aware of our impact on the digital universe is a good place to start.

Although I understand the position that she took (written in 2008) by stating that it is ultimately up to companies to manage our data better, I do believe that the majority of people are not like us. They are not paranoid. They don’t really give a damn to be honest. If it works, and I can post across multiple sites without having to remember yet another password, then yahoo! So what if they want my data!? Who cares if I’m leaving behind another breadcrumb. It’s not that big a deal to be honest…

You get my point. No one wants to read the fine print, it’s too long and complicated. They may think twice, but they’re not leaving.

I would have to think the recent breach of Ashley Madison changed quite a few people’s mind on the subject, but it continues to take such scandals to bring to light what we are sacrificing for mere convenience. Or a shag, in this case.

In the end, we do need to be aware of our own digital footprint if we are to teach our students. We need to make sure that we teach students AND teachers to celebrate themselves and their beliefs so that their digital footprint represents a picture of someone they are proud of.

That message takes time to develop; but what an important message it is.

Course 1 Final Project: The Wax Museum, Take 2

Course 1 Final Project: The Wax Museum, Take 2


I currently work at ICHK-HLY as the Digital & Information Literacy Leader. I’m a non-class based teacher who works across the school, from Nursery to Year 6. When not in a classroom, I spend a lot of time planning, purchasing, completing whole-school admin jobs and sorting maintenance issues for all things ICT. Although at times I feel like I wear way too many hats, I do love my job and the flexibility it provides.

I enjoy working with other staff members, teachers, students and classes in order to help improve technology integration and standards at our school. With my position I have the unique opportunity to get into all of the classes and see the progression from the Early Years right up to graduation in Year 6. It’s fun to be able to work with a varied group of learners as I often walk away from lessons with more questions then I answered.

Having been in this position now for a little over a year now, I have seen quite a bit of change, not only amongst students and their capabilities, but teachers too. Don’t get me wrong, we’re no model for other schools to copy just yet, but we’re progressing and moving forward as a whole.

One of the things I have tried to do differently this year, when compared to last, is to spend more time with the younger students early on. Last year I spent quite a large chunk of time in Year 5 and 6 and that was most likely due to the fact that I had been a Year 1 teacher for 4-5 years and was ready for some deeper conversations…and less tears. But what I learned from that first year out was that it’s best to start young and have students work their way up then it is to spend the majority of my time with older students who are soon graduating. So I’ve reversed my teaching spiral as you may call it and am now working on building up the skills in the younger years so that by the time they get to Year 5 and 6 they are equipped with the skill sets that we need them to have to complete more in-depth projects.

flickr photo shared by throgers under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

One common skill set that I have found to be of concern is the research skills of our students. Often times what you would expect to see in a finished product, that includes the element of research as part of their process, to be lacking in detail or clarity. Teachers tend to question why basic skills need to be re-taught and not merely expanded upon.

So, this is why I have chosen to once again work with the Year 3 students on their “Where We Are in Time and Place” unit of inquiry. This central purpose of this unit is to research an explorer who has made a discovery in our past. The research topics that students can explore, but are not limited to, include:

  • Space exploration (20th Century / Recent)
  • Age of exploration (Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus)
  • Science Inventions
  • Ends of the Earth (Deep sea, North Pole, Himalayas)
  • Flight and transportation

For their summative task, students are to choose an explorer or inventor to research and be at a ‘Wax Museum’ that is going to be open to parents and the school community to come and check-out as a Mini-Exhibition.

When I look back at my notes from our collaboration last year, I noticed a few changes in how I would like for this time around to be different. I’m hoping that those reflections will lead to greater success and better results – both for students and teachers alike. And in the process continue to improve student information literacy and research skills that I talked about earlier.

The proposition that I had for this year was to have teachers use Blendspace to organise their lessons for the unit and to then have students create their accounts to organise their research. For those who don’t know, Blendspace (formerly Edcanvas, now part of TES) is an online multimedia Web tool for teachers and students to create presentations, WebQuests, projects, online courses and more. It’s a great resource if you’re looking to ‘flip your classroom’ as you can easily collect and share resources from YouTube, Dropbox, Google Drive, Flickr, Website Links, My Computer, Bookmarks and more. However, after using it more extensively in Year 5 post Y3 unit last year, I am moving away from it as there was too much troubleshooting for my liking.


Google Classroom

With the development of Google Classroom I have now proposing the two Year 3 teachers move all their student work into the cloud and on to Google Classroom. Students have had their GAFE accounts for a little over a month now so I think they will enjoy the fact that they’re going to be working online, doing research in their docs and managing their own workflow. Does this address their difficulty in understanding the text: no. But the research tool built into Docs provides teachers with an excellent way to see and track individual student progress in real time when their work is shared back through the Classroom. It also allows for teachers like myself to see where the mistakes are being made and use them as teaching points.

When we did this unit last year, we had one teacher who wasn’t as comfortable with the tech side of things and pushed students to create their final Wax Museum projects on paper. It looked great, like an old science fair almost. But when compared to the students who completed their work primarily online, a stark contrast in the skills they learned was ever-present.

This year, for those students who choose their mode of presentation to be an infographic, I would like for them to get away from the boring posters of old and create something that is worthy of presenting at the Wax Museum. It’s hard to walk around town nowadays without seeing an infographic somewhere. There are reasons for that…they catch the eye. They are appealing and they have concise information that tells the audience a clear message. I would like to take the time to properly teach them the skills behind a great infographic as I believe this unit, on sharing about explorers and inventors, is a good medium for that kind of presentation.

With a year under my belt in this position, and having been a part of this unit in the past, I am looking forward to bringing more tech into the classrooms to increase the engagement students have with this UOI in a way that boosts both the research skills and their presentations skills.

Watch this space for an end of unit reflection.

Thanks for reading!

The Cable Guys

The Cable Guys

As the 21st Century presents an increasingly complex and interconnected world, human progress demands intensive global knowledge and skills, particularly of our young leaders and innovators. Teachers can foster a sense of global citizenship and intercultural skills through global project-based learning and collaborative projects that allows students to resolve global problems and communicate across cultural, political and geographic boundaries. With the use of technology, teachers can seamlessly integrate global themes and perspectives across all grade levels and academic disciplines.

If you don’t know what project-based learning is, this video explains it nicely.

Here’s what it’s not: students being talked at, and soaking up the ‘awesome’ (read boring) lecture by the teacher in the front.

In a nutshell, it is students working together, doing projects that they care about, taking ownership of their education, and becoming lifelong learners.

According to Edutopia, well-designed project-based learning (PBL) has been shown to result in deeper learning and engaged, self-directed learners. They believe there are 5 keys to doing it right:

  1. Real-world Connection – Students are more engaged when learning relates directly to the world they live in. See how to extend your projects beyond classroom walls.
  2. Core to Learning – You see the students learning as they interact with each other. Easy to match to your standards, not just the Core.
  3. Structured Collaboration – PBL provides a unique opportunity to help students practice critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. A structure within the structure must be in place however, scaffolded so as they reach one level, they can move on to the next.
  4. Student Driven -When they are directly involved in planning and steering projects, students are more invested in their learning. They take ownership of their learning.
  5. Multi-Faceted Assessment – Assessment can be integrated seamlessly into project-based learning. Students can be assessed at each stage of the project.

PBL is one of the greatest examples of how technology is changing the learning landscape and global education. Many connected educators are realising the importance of global collaborative projects and the amount of potential they offer their students.

One of the very first online collaborative projects that I heard of years ago (2007) was the Flat Classroom Project, run by Julie Lindsey. I was always intrigued by how people from around the world were able to work simultaneously on a single project through Wikispaces. The projects and ideas to connect and collaborate have grown considerably over time and that is now reflected in her new site titled Flat Connections.

I have to admit that my experience in working on a global scale is pretty limited. I’ve joined in on chats, helped fill in forms, but never really had one of my classes take part in a planned unit that stretches beyond the walls of my own room. Facepalm, followed by a sigh. A lot of that has to do with my previous job. When you’re teaching a class of 27 Year 1 students for 5 years, it’s pretty hard to see through the forest for the trees some days, let alone plan or join in on a global project.

I’m planning on changing that this year and have already been in discussion with teachers to see what we can do. Ironically enough though, Global Collaboration Day just passed. If I were on the ball then I would probably be blogging about something much different, like a positive reflection on our experiences. Oh well, too bad. Have added that one to my calendar for next year though.

I do have my school participating in ‘Hour of Code‘ once again this year, but I would like to extend beyond that one week timeframe to make it more personal for some of my classes. I love the idea of Codeathon and will try and get involved in that if it continues (their website hasn’t been updated for 2016 yet).

I’m sure if I introduce Pana’s Travelling Teddy program to my Early Years teachers they will be keen to investigate it further. It’s a meaningful hands-on experience that is looks really engaging for the little guys.

I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day about doing some Mystery Skype sessions. We’re in the preliminary talks but have been in contact with Craig Kemp for some help. Seeing as neither of us have ever done one, we’ve been using Twitter to reach out to our PLNs for support. Seeing as he will be presenting in HK for 21CLHK, it’s a good place to start. Funny enough though, just this morning and out of the blue, I was contacted by Beverley Ladd relating to this very matter:

There are many great global projects on the go already. I think it’s time to jump in and take the risk and get something going. If we follow the 5 keys above, I see no reason for why it won’t be a huge success at my school.

Do you have a project that you need help with? Are you looking to collaborate with a year group on a specific unit? Drop me a line and let me know. Let’s connect and make something special for our students. Let’s extend the cable.

Thanks for reading, Jamie

Featured Photo: ‘Local Call’ by gfpeck @