It is all about Empathy. The Course #2 Final Project

Our Course #2 final project goal was to create a collection of resources that would help educators teach … Empathy. Empathy was one of the key elements of this COETAIL course. Our main focus was the ISTE standard for Educators 3.a. Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that builds relationships and community.
Our group (Simona Schultz, Christel Toilier, Paul Mooney, Luis Moreno, and myself) gathered to create a collection of great resources for other teachers. As our team consists of 5 participants, we came up with the title Hi 5! Resources. “Hi 5!” shout out itself sounds very positive and friendly.

A Better World – YouTube

All of us tried to look at teaching empathy from our own perspectives. I’ve developed a unit plan on teaching empathy through online digital tools, empowering students for online communication and collaboration by writing reflective blog posts. By sharing their posts, students could also contribute to the school community. Simona, as an artist, decided to spread kindness teaching empathy through the art lessons and uploaded her lesson plans accompanied by visual materials, created by herself. Paul decided to make his contribution to our website as an IB teacher and relate an empathy topic with his TOK lessons. Luis works as an Educational Technology Coordinator and Christel is Teacher-Librarian at the MHS Library decided to share even more exciting ways to teach empathy.
This collaboration project made us know each other better. Our first communication was via email, however, we came up with a common decision that Twitter Chat would be more efficient for quick and effective communication. One of the collaboration challenges was getting to live communication knowing the fact about the different tines zones we all live at the moment – South Korea, Brussels, Panama, Lithuania…

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

During the Course #2 I was greatly excited and pleased by opportunities of global collaboration. I’ve familiarized myself with such projects as Ematico and PenPal Schools. These resources inspired me for global communication even more. Even after a great experience of 7 Traveling Tales 🙂 Participation in similar projects is very effective while teaching empathy – you can see it grow with the involvement of every additional school and student from somewhere out there in the wide world.

Working on this project I felt even more nostalgic about our school. This school year we are not coming back to school because of the pandemic, even though it has passed it’s highest peak in our country. I feel that mostly I would like to come back to school and teach the unit about empathy as well as empower students’ communication and contribution to our small school community. Can’t wait to test it out 🙂

Empower to Foster Contribution

“Dos” and “Don’ts”

My biggest take away from the University was: “We have to keep telling our children what to do, but not what not to do”.
This is a common mistake all adults make. They are afraid that children (or students) will take risks and “burn their fingers”. They always say: “Don’t touch!”, “Don’t share your private information online!”, “Don’t visit untrusted websites!”. Don’t….. Don’t….. Don’t…… and many more “DON’TS”.
Meanwhile, what’s happening in the child’s head? – “Hmm…What should I do then?”
My biggest belief is that we have to take our children and students to that dark forest of what should be done and what shouldn’t together and explain all the dangers and advantages of doing something, let them try, let them explore. It is their life and they have to be ready for their future life. How else can children learn and satisfy their curiosity? How will they know, that oven might be hot if they have never touched it?
Students need their own real-life experiences, good or bad. It is amazing, how many new fantastic ideas students come up with when they are allowed to use the online environment and explore/try its opportunities. I found this TedTalk really powerful: Extracurricular empowerment (McLeod, TEDxDesMoines).

Most schools have technology Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) which contain lots of negative phrases. How about an Empowered Use Policy (EUP) instead? In other words, instead of saying “NO, NO, NO!” all the time, how about saying yes? Scott Mcleod (http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/)
I personally agree with this statement. Students got used to hearing restrictions quite often at school. When I ask my students about internet safety they usually begin a sentence from a word don’t. Then, I ask them to paraphrase – “What should we do?” For example: If I can’t share my password with anyone, what should I do with my password? Students get confused, but sooner or later they give me a positive statement, and eventually, they learn it.

Contribution Wanted

Technology is a powerful tool and I can only imagine how this COVID-19 pandemic situation would affect education without all the technology tools. Online communication skills are extremely valuable at the moment. They are very useful during all the collaborative projects with between various grade levels, other local schools, or even schools all over the world.

Over the past several years, our school has been participating in the creation of 7 Travelling Tales. The purpose of Travelling Tales is to raise one or more Global Goals related problems, that, through the digital storytelling, is then developed in the tale, as well as solved at the end. Five different schools around the world collaborate on the creation of one tale. It takes about 6-7 weeks for the tale to be completed. I have to warn you – this project is contagious. Once we tried participating in it and now we can’t stop. It has some great advantages like – teamwork in the classroom. Everyone is involved in the process, everyone takes turns in order to suggest his/her own contribution. Students are so engaged in this project. They take Global Goals for Sustainable Development very seriously. Thanks to the Travelling Tale projects, almost all of our elementary students know almost all Global Goals for sustainable development. Travelling Tale is also a great tool for teaching empathy. I can only imagine, how many more students around the world found out the same generally relevant and valuable information.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id3w0IA81cA

One day colleague of mine – a Russian teacher – asked me about her students’ (Russian learners) participation in this project. Joel Bevans was happy to hear about our idea and gave us all permissions, as well as necessary online tools in order to help us make our tale come true. We made it happen and I value this experience even more. This time, I was searching for possible participants, and this way I could make new great connections with teachers in our country. It wasn’t easy, but definitely worth it 🙂 Can’t wait to do it again.
I often remember our first TT, which included 4 different continents. Incredible and so simple as well. We all have connections and it is so powerful when we all come together for the same generous purpose.
Participation in this project really pushes students to think about other people around the world, living without food in poverty, nature, and animals that are killed just because of our constant need for convenience. This way students become more empathetic regarding all those global problems. Empathy is a key factor in this project.

“We aren’t destroying the biosphere because we are selfish. We are doing it simply because we are unaware.”
– Greta Tunberg (Gowthaman, 29th Sep 2019)

It is amazing, how huge is the impact of Greta Tunberg’s ideas on many of us. Personally, I think that children’s strong voice can be heard even better, compared to any adult. We all are more sensitive about children and awareness raised by them sounds more important. Being part of participatory culture, youth often contributes to spreading a word and raising awareness about global issues by communicating through social media.

While writing this post I’ve found several great resources, which I will try using in the future while teaching Empathy and help students become more connected with other students all over the world:

Empatico – Communicating with another class on the other side of the globe is a great way of exchanging all kinds of experience – from personal thoughts to academic knowledge. While using this platform, students’ motivation to learn raises nearly 100%! I found this really useful while teaching geography, cultural facts and of course, empathy. Here is one of the examples of how this kind of project can be very successful.

PenPal schools is another online collaboration project, which has really caught my eye. This great tool/project allows communication between students all over the world with teacher support and assistance. PenPal Schools connects half a million students from 150 countries to practice writing, create original projects, and make friends from around the world. This is a great way of learning proper online communication. The world is so close to us now 🙂

What’s on your digital plate today?

Think before you post! This is the PHRASE I use when I begin teaching my students appropriate behavior online. Posting online can be useful and harmful together. By demonstrating a specific behavior, people can shape our opinion about them. Everyone, who posts or “scrolls” online creates his/her own digital shadow. As an educator, I do care about my own digital shadow as wells as my students’ shadows too. When your digital traces are put together to create stories about you or profiles of you, these become your digital shadows. These can give others huge insight into your life, and they can also be totally wrong. Either way, once they’re out there, they are almost impossible to control… Me and My Shadow

However, the phrase “Think before you post” can be used in way more situations, than for regular communication online. How many of us, participants of this COETAIL journey, have stopped to think if it is appropriate to post some of our thoughts to the public. I have. Just because I care about my reputation and I feel responsible for sharing my opinion and appropriate information, but surely still learning to get things done well using various forms of media. But are we all thinking the same way? Are all of the online contributors taking responsibility for the content they are posting?

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

According to Pew Research Center, today around seven-in-ten Americans use social media connecting with each other, engaging with news content, sharing information, or simply entertaining themselves. Moreover, social media is part of people’s daily routine. This means it is really important to think before you post, because of a huge audience who can access the content you have posted. Media shapes our understanding of the surrounding world very often. That’s why it is recommended to everyone, who reads media news online to train your “skeptical eye”. This term was suggested by Media smarts in the “Sorting Fact from Fiction” article. They recommend paying extra attention to the following factors on sorting out fake news/facts:
Non-news content, such as ads and opinion pieces, that looks like news;
– Entirely false news stories, including satire and fake stories that purport to be true;
– Genuine news stories which are significantly compromised by the source’s bias
.
Moreover, research suggests that most people judge a news source based in part on whether it looks like news.

What is Media Literacy?

According to Frank W. Baker, this term can be split apart – media and literacy. Media is a well-known term for all of us which includes the internet, newspaper, magazines, television, etc. Literacy is the ability to read, write, write, and comprehend. Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom, 2nd Edition

We want students who can read, write, think critically, and contribute to society.
– Frank W. Baker

Curiosity and Truth

Being an educator of 21st-century education, I feel big responsibility of preparing students to be active and “professional/smart” contributors to our online community. No matter if my students are quite young for this – they are also reached by media every day. For example: at home by watching TV, especially, if they are doing it together with their older siblings, who are very often a role model as well. So how can we help our students balance their media diet? Here is a good video that can help us do that – it talks about the media diet that can help students understand how modern media makes a good show and look beyond the news that is fed to them (suitable even for young students).

My biggest take away from this video is a tip on reading more different news feeds in order to be able to recognize misinformation and bias information. This broadens our understanding of the content we are receiving from some resources, also, it is possible to do the fact-checking and avoid irrelevant information. Moreover reading more of different resources, allows us to find out something new and exciting, increasing the level of curiosity.

Fact-checking is one of the most important processes in any research process. I teach my grade 5 students research every year. We agree on at least three different resources for fact-checking. Teaching research is impossible without media literacy elements. Together with my students, we discover various media forms during this process – we read magazines, watch YouTube videos, read blogs, explore websites (professional and other), etc. During these classes, we also compare examples of various media forms, discuss when is it appropriate to use them for certain research topics – when can we use bias informational resources and when do we need scientific facts as well as specialized websites.

For example: “What people think about our government in the 21st-century?” For this type of research bias information is exactly what we need. But how can we know that this kind of bias information is actually written by people and not “Bots” (automated accounts capable of posting content or interacting with other users with no direct human involvement)? Scary, isn’t it? This is just another great example of how we can be uncertain of whom we are communicating with on the other side of the monitor. The rise of “fake news” and the proliferation of doctored narratives that are spread by humans and bots online are challenging publishers and platforms. The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online (Pew Research Center)

In essence, today we all have to be our own librarians, researchers, and fact-checkers. “Authentication 101 – Introduction” (Media Smarts)

My younger students create posts on Seesaw. This is a great platform for the discussion on “How my post should look like?” and “How can I help my peers by leaving a meaningful comment?” or “What can we say about each other from our contributions?”. Also, “How can sharing our learning outcomes help us shape our understanding of how we learn?” and even more – “Who we are as different personas with individual points of view?” or “What happens if some of us begin adding wrong information?”. Therefore, comparing our small Seesaw community with other media and social media platforms can show that similar processes happening all around us and we are going to be part of it in the future. Similar discussions help build a basic understanding of media literacy and the diversity of information around us.

No need to mention that all educators are role models for their students. Our example is really important. Writing this blog is a great example of how digital tools can be successfully and appropriately used for sharing knowledge and good ideas with the community. I could share this with my students.

Privacy Matters

While thinking about privacy online I remembered my personal experience with this matter. I always used to turn off my location sharing on my old cellphone. Unfortunately, one day I broke it and got a better one. This new device made me much happier. All the apps were working faster and better, I could use map navigation without any difficulties. It was so convenient! However, once I had to take my car to service, therefore I had to use public transport. When I got to a bus stop, my new phone was very kind to send me a notification with the schedule of buses coming soon. Obviously, I forgot to change my location sharing setting. This made me rethink how all of the convenience provided by the technology could bring possible danger to my privacy.

From: https://privacyinternational.org/

On the other hand, once I accidentally left my cellphone in a store. When I got back home, I realized, that I don’t have it. I immediately “Googled” how to find a location of my phone and Google helped me out 🙂 Find your phone only required to sign into my Google account and I could right away know the current location of my phone! The next morning I came back to the store and got my cellphone back. I was lucky that people were fair and kept my cellphone safely in order to return it to me. Yap, sometimes when your head is a mess – technology might be helpful even without respecting your privacy.

EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies — largely unregulated, little scrutinized — are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files. Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy By Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel

If you would like to make sure your privacy is protected while using smartphones, here are some useful tips that were emphasized by By Stuart A. Thompson and Gus Wezerek in an article – “Three steps to protect your phone
Firstly, making sure, that your device isn’t sharing your location with apps. This can be changed in your device settings. It’s great, that after disabling it your locations still will be known to emergency responders.
Secondly, disable your mobile ID. Your ID will not be sent to advertisers and app makers anymore.
And lastly – prevent Google from storing your location. Go to your account’s location activity controls and turning off location sharing.

Participatory culture and privacy

According to the research (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation) students have to develop textual literacy as a central skill in the twenty-first century in order to become a part of participatory culture. They must be able to read and write. Moreover, new media literacies should be considered as a social skill.

Youth must expand their required competencies, not push aside old skills to make room for the new. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Being a part of participatory culture enables students to take care of their personal data protection. Meanwhile, educators inevitably take an essential role in this process. Common communication in the digital environment requires knowledge of data protection.

In such a world, youth need skills for working within social networks, for pooling knowledge within a collective intelligence, for negotiating across cultural differences that shape the governing assumptions in different communities, and for reconciling conflicting bits of data to form a coherent picture of the world around them. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

There are so many regulations on data protection such as GPPR – General Data Protection Regulation – really important in all EU countries. FERPA – Federal privacy law that applies to educational agencies and institutions and applicable programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education. COPPA – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. IDEA – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy is a great guide to any educator. It includes all of the descriptions of regulations with scenarios.

As a teacher working in one of the EU countries I have to be familiar with and follow GDPR, which had a very big impact on my day to day job. It made me read all the policies even better, check compliance of online tools with GDPR regulations, etc. We have to keep our students’ names, birth dates as well as other sensitive information private. Almost nothing can be shared online without prior parents’ agreement. This created many difficulties in communication and collaboration with students from other schools. For example, before sharing any students’ works to exchange the experience, all the names have to be removed.

My role at school is to ensure the maximum level of students’ privacy and make sure publicly accessible data complies with GDPR regulations. I think all teachers need to have at least a basic understanding of how to protect students’ privacy online as well as be able to explain the main privacy concepts and even more importantly… browser/smartphone settings to students in order to ensure a secure educational process using online tools. This is mostly applicable to Middle and High school students where students are using personal cellphones. As an elementary teacher, I have to make sure, that I provide appropriate digital tools as well as ensure privacy settings on the devices, provided by our school. A great online tool for all educators to begin taking care of students’ privacy – Common Sense Media – it lists out essential steps for enabling a safe digital environment for students. Check out the list of evaluated online resources.

Create+Post+Share=Learn?

When I was a child, communication was so much different compared to communication opportunities young people have access to today. I remember a dial-type stationary phone at home. I used it to call my friend and invite her to go outside to play. It was a success if I could find her at home at that moment… Another available communication tool was mail. I had some penpals living in other towns and every month I used to send them mails to tell how I am doing and exchange stamps with them in order to fill each others’ collections. All of the other forms of communication were face to face.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Now students are using online chats, video calls, and sometimes emails. Emails aren’t that popular in our school in youth circles. Social media came to my life only when I was 16 and it didn’t really seem to me that I could learn something useful using it. Years have passed and my opinion of the ways in which we can use social media has drastically changed. Few years ago I discovered Twitter to be a great tool for gathering and sharing information with other educators all over the world. The entire world of educational contacts, as well as resources, has opened up to me. This twitter experience made me seek for more and find new educational resources shared by groups of educators via Facebook: EdTechTeam Global Community, Seesaw Tech Integrationists, Seesaw Ambassadors, Teachers Using Google Suite For Education, Technology Teacher Talk With Brittany Washburn, Facebook Group Teach With Tech. Now I am successfully using these and many other resources found on social media for my professional development.

New trends in education are approaching us online every day. As I’ve already mentioned in my other COETAIL blog post, # is a really helpful character in this process. It allows me to search for appropriate content sorted out by specific keywords. For example #earthday or #coetail, etc. allows me to find all topic related posts shared by other people on social media. It is a real treasure for an educator if you know how to use it 🙂

Before the beginning of my COETAIL journey, my opinion about social media was completely different. My students are up to 10 years old and I can’t really use social media tools with my students – they are too young for it. However, I realized that there are ways to utilize special/closed social media platforms or communities created for specific purposes, such as Seesaw, Google Classroom, Padlet, Flipgrid, Google Sites, Blogger, etc. Such online tools might work as an affinity space for small groups of students where students can share their learning experience, help classmates to learn, and even come up with new solutions and trends. Learning model based on communication might be an introduction to participatory culture for younger students. Students can build a basic understanding of proper communication online and see the value of sharing ideas with other people as well as working towards the same goal in groups. Unfortunately, sometimes teachers are still asking to disable chats on some learning platforms – I don’t see many reasons to do that. How will students learn proper communication online if they don’t practice it?

“…participatory cultures represent ideal learning environments. Gee (2004) calls such informal learning cultures “affinity spaces,” asking why people learn more, participate more actively, engage more deeply with popular culture than they do with the contents of their textbooks.” Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash

According to a Pew Research Center survey, 24 percent of teenagers are online “almost constantly,” so it’s essential that they know how to handle themselves there. Rules for Social Media, Created by Kids (NYTimes)

Since many students, especially older ones, already have some social media skills and are using it quite actively, I think it can also be a great place for learning. Especially, having in mind all of those stories of success of young people building their own learning and sharing environment and, as a result, coming up with some successful business ideas.

Ashley Richardson (Jenkins, 2004b) was a middle-schooler when she ran for president of Alphaville. She wanted to control a government that had more than 100 volunteer workers and that made policies that affected thousands of people. She debated her opponent on NationalPublic Radio. She found herself in the center of a debate about the nature of citizenship, about how to ensure honest elections, and about the future of democracy in a digital age. Alphaville is the largest city in the popular multiplayer game, The Sims Online. (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

To Copy or Not to Copy…

Citing sources and Copyright
Copyright is a law we all have to follow in order to respect others’ rights. Giving credit to the author is a must nowadays. Following all the copyright guidelines and rules may sound like a tremendous amount of work, or like a very strong limiting factor. Fortunately, thanks to the development of technology, life of our students became a little bit easier. Citing resources has changed as well, thanks to online citation generators such as MyBib, EasyBib. They allow students to generate a citation easily just by copying and pasting the URL address or ISBN code (for books) of the chosen resources in order to get all necessary details for the citation in the correct order. Remembering my days at schools and university… this process wasn’t that easy back then 🙂
In my opinion, teacher, as a role model for students, should show an example of fair use attitude. Unfortunately, teachers still need reminders about watermarked picture use in their presentations, posters, etc. I find the pictograph by Langwithes an amazing step by step guide which helps you follow the copyright as well as provide a basic understanding of all types of copyright existing in the ocean of the internet. This tool could be really helpful to all teachers, who aren’t sure about the fair use of digital content. One more great visual (learning from visuals is exciting!) by The Visual Learning Guy displays copyright, fair use, creative commons, and public domain all in one graph. If you can wrap your head around those four concepts, image copyright won’t seem so scary. Curtis Newbold, March 24, 2016.
I Love Unsplash, Piqsels, Pixabay, and Creative Commons. Also, I use filters in Google Search. Unfortunately, sometimes it is not easy to find a picture matching your needs exactly. After attending a workshop led by Keri Lee Beasley I came up with an idea, that students could create their own images and their collections. At the workshop, Keri taught some simple photography concepts and basic rules that could help make a good picture. I also found similar tips here – Depositphotos.
We love taking pictures and we are doing it every day and everywhere with our powerful smartphones. Why don’t we learn a few simple rules and apply them every time we are taking a picture and collect them in great collections. For example, my COETAIL blog header picture is a creation of mine and I’m very happy that I can use it without any permission.

Remix and Participatory Cultures
Remixing culture is very common in education. We are learning from the best authors, artists, singers, composers, educators, business managers, personalities and explore their best works as examples. Remixing culture is inevitable from education in many cases.

Image from Piqsels

Furthermore, I would like to share an example of remix culture from my country – Lithuania. Jolita Vaitkutė is a young Lithuanian artist recreating portraits of famous people as well as artworks by using food, books, recycling materials, pencils, etc. and shares it all online.
Recently, with all of the COVID-19 situation, staying at home became a mission impossible for some people. Fortunately, some cultural institutions, such as theater, opera, music halls, ballets, etc., have started various initiatives that perfectly meet the remixing culture description. For example, museums have encouraged people to recreate iconic paintings using any household items they have by their hand. Read more about it from Bored Panda. By recreating all those paintings people could also broaden their knowledge about the art. I believe, all this situation made many of us, young and old, move towards the participatory culture. According to Henry Jenkins, it is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations. All this world crisis made us start thinking differently.

Forms of participatory culture include:
Affiliations— memberships, formal and informal, in online communities centered around various forms of media, such as Friendster, Facebook, message boards, metagaming, game clans, or MySpace).
Expressions— producing new creative forms, such as digital sampling, skinning and modding, fan videomaking, fan fiction writing, zines, mash-ups).
Collaborative Problem-solving— working together in teams, formal and informal, to complete tasks and develop new knowledge (such as through Wikipedia, alternative reality gaming, spoiling).
Circulations — Shaping the flow of media (such as podcasting, blogging

Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Resources:

“Back To Basics: 10 Composition Rules In Photography.” Depositphotos Blog, 7 Dec. 2016, blog.depositphotos.com/back-to-basics-10-composition-rules-in-photography.html. Accessed 16 Apr. 2020.

“Copyright Flowchart: Can I Use It? Yes? No? If This… Then….” Silvia Tolisano- Langwitches Blog, 10 June 2014, langwitches.org/blog/2014/06/10/copyright-flowchart-can-i-use-it-yes-no-if-this-then/. Accessed 16 Apr. 2020.

Newbold, Curtis. “You Can Use a Picture If: Guidelines for Image Copyrights.” The Visual Communication Guy: Designing Information to Engage, Educate, and Inspire People, 24 Mar. 2016, thevisualcommunicationguy.com/2016/03/24/you-can-use-a-picture-if-guidelines-for-image-copyrights/. Accessed 16 Apr. 2020.

Pat Tamarin Pat Tamarin, et al. “Museums Ask People To Recreate Famous Paintings With Anything They Can Find At Home, Get 35 Hilarious Pics.” Bored Panda, 18 Dec. 1969, www.boredpanda.com/art-recreation-at-home-museum-challenge/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic. Accessed 16 Apr. 2020.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Remix Culture.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Oct. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remix_culture. Accessed 16 Apr. 2020.

The Final Project of COETAIL Course #1: My Tech-Rich Unit about Internet Safety

I chose a Digital Citizenship unit as my final project for COETAIL Course #1. I begin every school year by teaching this unit. I find it really important. Students, as well as adults, keep forgetting about some important rules regarding sharing personal data via social media, appropriate behavior online or digital etiquette. However, children in real life often are told not to open the door to strangers, when they are left at home alone. What about the digital world? Do they really know well enough how to keep the private family or personal information secure, when to share it and with whom? Kids usually have access to way more information than their parents realize. But do they always know when is it OK to open that information door?

Here is my tech-rich Internet Safety unit plan that will allow students to gain knowledge and skills to survive in the ocean of the digital world. Below you will find more details about teaching methods and digital tools that enrich this unit.

Gamification

The fact, that I am teaching this unit every year doesn’t make it easier to create. I’m adapting the teaching plan every year since it is getting harder to motivate students by just giving new tools and relevant information. However, in my opinion, the rules of internet safety must be reminded about and repeated every year. While designing this unit plan, I was thinking about my Grade 5 students, since they are more likely to already be using social media in their personal environment. This time I’ve decided to utilize a new tool to make sure I catch their attention and make the information memorable – Gamification. Everything is so much easier to learn through the game. Everyone likes to play. This is one of the best motivations for a learner of any age.

In order not to invent the wheel again, I’ve chosen a BreakOut Edu platform (luckily, this school year our school has purchased several kits and unlimited access to this educational resource). BreakOut Edu is a challenge of an escape room in your classroom. Students get topic-related information through the riddles. By solving the riddles, students get answers in a form of lock combinations that allow unlocking the boxes and getting the key.

Photo by ABEL MARQUEZ on Unsplash

In order to make a research process more exciting and effective for my students, I’ve chosen a game called THINK BEFORE YOU POST, which offers students a possibility to decide whether provided information can be posted online or not, as well as learn more about potentially harmful online activities. As a result, it turns out to be kind of a guided research process through the game.

In order to attract the attention of the students, the main task of the game is related to a real-world situation:
Your parents have changed the wifi password and disabled wifi on all of your cellular devices!  The only way to get online access is to prove to them that you know how to be safe on the Internet!
This kind of challenge is motivating already. At the end of this activity students will learn about:
– Negative consequences of online activities;
– How to sort out Helpful, Unkind and Illegal Posts;
– Create an appropriate Fake Facebook post;
– Learn about location settings and when it is safe to share your location on your device.
Through this BreakOut Edu activity students will go through the following stages of learning from Bloom’s taxonomy – remembering, understanding and applying.

Podcast

Another essential part of my Internet safety unit is the creation of a podcast. Students will analyze and evaluate data, they’ve gained from the Internet safety game. They will have to work in groups and fill out the Podcast outline template in order to structurize the information on internet safety topics. During this process, they will also be encouraged to do additional research online. Students, working in groups, will create and record a podcast about one of the topics:
– Negative consequences of online activities;
– How to sort out Helpful, Unkind and Illegal Posts;
– How to create an appropriate Fake Facebook post;
– Location settings on your device and when it is safe to share your location?
Students will use Anchor – an online podcast generator.
The podcats will be shared through Google Form with classmates, who will be able to share their reflections on their peers’ podcasts and provide feedback.
After sharing it with classmates and receiving feedback, student-created Podcats can be tuned a little bit more and prepared for sharing with the school community on a bulletin board (by providing QR codes of each podcast). Everyone will be able to listen to it and remind themselves about the basics of internet safety.

How does this relate to the learning in Course 1? 

Knowledge gained through COETAIL course #1 helped me a lot while designing this unit plan. The fact that I had to push myself out of the comfort zone and place myself into the learners’ chair made me see the whole educational process that I was used to from an absolutely different angle. I realized, on one hand, how many exciting easily-accessible online learning tools are available on the unlimited pages of the internet. On the other hand, this experience reminded me of something that many of us, teachers, forget due to day-to-day routine – in order to be effective and stay in students’ heads, every lesson must be interesting, engaging and inspiring. Connecting tasks to real-life situations, inspiring collaboration, making it so exciting and unusual that students would geek out about it after the classes and applying the best modern learning theories – I’ve tried to have all of these ideas in mind while creating this lesson plan so that my students would benefit from it as much as I benefited from COETAIL course #1.

Learning Theories in The Education of 21st Century

From Behaviorism to Connectivism

The origin of theories of learning was in ancient Greece. Over the ages, theories of learning have been developing and transforming. Many famous educators developed various theories – from Behaviorism to Connectivism – in order to explain the human learning process. I personally am using ideas of Connectivism in my teaching process very often. The majority of my lessons are based on the co-teaching model. While preparing I am using my research skills pretty often to find relevant material, such as online content for classes or new digital tools. Online content is constantly changing in the 21st century as well as our learning process, which results in change of our lifestyle in general. According to Siemens “Learners as little as forty years ago would complete the required schooling and enter a career that would often last a lifetime. Information development was slow. The life of knowledge was measured in decades. Today, these foundational principles have been altered. Knowledge is growing exponentially. In many fields the life of knowledge is now measured in months and years.

Connectivism according to George Siemens is A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.

Using learning theories to support students’ learning

With this COVID-19 situation in Europe, which made many countries close schools and switch to distance learning, I had a great opportunity to rethink my teaching practice. This made me realize the importance of learning theories. Now I am reaching my students through Google Classroom and Seesaw. I am uploading assignments, video tutorials which I’ve created using Loom (online video recorder). Together with my students, we are having conversations and discussions relevant to the topic of study through comments in Google Classroom. I’m including online research and moving towards including online collaboration activities between students to my lessons.
My further plan is to bring part of my teaching content to online conversations with my students thorough Google Meet. In my opinion, especially now, in current COVID-19 situation, practical application of learning theories like Connectivism and Constructivism is inevitable. I’ve noticed, that understanding of Connectivism and Constructivism as learning theories helped me rethink my online lesson plans and focus more on:
– Students’ learning from each other
– More collaboration within student groups and between groups
– Relate tasks to real-life situations
For example, students can work on creation of a Google Site about the best learning online practices together and communicate through Google Meet sessions online.
Working together towards one goal, especially if it is related to a real-world situation, is motivating. Real-time feedback encourages and motivates you to reach your goal sooner. For example:
– Designing an actual room with real measurements, furniture, windows, etc. using online designing tool Planner 5D.
– Creating a tour of countries you’ve visited using Tour Builder.
– Creating an art gallery using Thinglink.
According to constructivist principles, real-life learning is messy and complex. Classrooms that emulate the “fuzziness” of this learning will be more effective in preparing learners for life-long learning. Frances Bel: Connectivism: Its Place in Theory-Informed Research and Innovation in Technology-Enabled Learning.

Constructivism
Learning as “a persisting change in human performance or performance potential…[which] must come about as a result of the learner’s experience and interaction with the world” Driscoll

We just completed our week #2 of distance learning at our school and I’ve noticed, that all the planning and preparation for lessons have significantly changed in comparison to previous process of preparation.
I’m communicating (online now, of course) with my colleagues even more than previously. As one of the IT support staff members, I am responsible for providing all necessary content to my colleagues. Therefore, I’ve noticed, that in many cases we are learning from each other. Teachers are looking for better ways of students’ motivation in learning new things online. Frustration is unavoidable here, because of loads of new information and unknown digital tools as well as new solutions. Teachers are impressed of the amount of new information they are getting and have to learn every day and it is moving to a successful “Geeking Out” between teachers.

Participation in the digital age means more than being able to access “serious” online information and culture; it also means the ability to participate in social and recreational activities online. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Image by ar130405 from Pixabay

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy

Bloom’s taxonomy as one of the learning theories is different from other learning theories by its clear structure. It is categorized by learning 6 stages:
Creating – To produce new or original work.   Tools – Animating, blogging, filming, podcasting, publishing, simulating, wiki building, video blogging, programming, directing
Evaluating – To justify a stand or decision; to make judgments based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing.  Tools – Grading, networking, rating, testing, reflecting, reviewing, blog commenting, posting, moderating
Analyzing – To draw connections among ideas, concepts, or determining how each part interrelate to an overall structure or purpose.  Tools – Mashing, mind mapping, surveying, linking, validating
Applying – To use information in new situations such as models, diagrams, or presentations.  Tools – Calculating, Charting, editing, hacking, presenting, uploading, operating, sharing with a group
Understanding – To explain ideas, concepts, or construct meaning from written material or graphics.  Tools – Advanced searching, annotating, blog journaling, tweeting, tagging, commenting, subscribing
Remembering – To recall facts, basic concepts, or retrieval of material.  Tools – Bookmarking, copying, googling, bullet-pointing, highlighting, group networking, searching
Obiageli Sneed: Integrating Technology with Bloom’s Taxonomy

I find really effective using Bloom’s taxonomy in an online learning environment – check out this infographic created by Ron Carranza.
I believe that any successful educational process is inherent from Bloom’s taxonomy and I wish I could apply it to all of my teaching units.

Technology Can Be More Engaging When Making Real-World Connections

Drew Perkins of TeachThought PD has listed a great list of questions about technology embedded in our curriculum – 15 Questions To Ask About Tech Integration In Your Classroom. I like it because some of the questions make us think critically. Has technology recently been the best tool for students’ learning or reflection? Is it relevant? Is it up to date? Valuable? Add free? Appropriate for the age group? From my experience, students love learning those tech tools, which are also actively used by adults. They are thriving to be just like adults and that’s why real-world connections, as well as simulations, are helpful for educational purpose.
Educators are always responsible for the digital tools they provide to students. It is the responsibility of any educator to make sure that any provided digital tool is appropriate for students. However, students also have to learn to troubleshoot and react appropriately if something goes wrong with a provided tool.
We, educators, have to teach appropriate reactions to any inappropriate content that shows up during the research process, just because the internet is full of everything. And we have to make the learning process challenging, motivating and interesting.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

I find students fascinating and love the passion but just because a tool has captured your imagination doesn’t mean it necessarily has a place in your classroom or school. It might indeed be a great way to grow to learn but starting your lesson planning by thinking, “how can I integrate this neat new tech toy” more often leads you down a stray path.” Drew Perkins

Tech-Rich Unit that I Used to Plan

My experience in planing a tech-rich unit was always related to the ideas of other teachers. My role at school is to help teachers plan a tech-rich unit. And I value this experience very much. First of all, because I always make connections with teachers and have a great opportunity to learn from them. Secondly, I am always learning something new. Teachers are very creative personalities and always come up with great and sometimes crazy ideas – for example, asking students to make an interview with Joana d’Arc. How can this lesson be embedded with technology? Hmm….? Can we make it look like a news report? What other tools can students use to make it more interesting and attractive?
Working with other teachers is constantly motivating me to search for new online tools, which are showing up day by day and become better than before. Sometimes I get lost. There is so much, but what is the best tool from all of this huge amount? It is time to choose only the best few..
Even now it is incredible how many resources I’ve discovered since the COVID-19 situation has occurred. I thought I know so many of them, but this situation has opened my eyes widely.

Till now I used to plan technology-rich units according to the following steps:

  • Use my research skills to find the best resources relevant to my curriculum online.
  • Search domains such as org, edu, gov etc.
  • Read the policy to make sure the resource is GDPR compliant.
  • Search for resources and suggestions from other teachers on Twitter.
  • Communicate about the new tools with other teachers of technology integration from other international schools to sharing ideas and experience.
  • Discover possible field trips, related to the content I teach.
  • Analyze how students will benefit from certain technology.
  • Combine various tech tools for one unit for formative and summative assignments.
  • Use my favorite online tools for students to explore – simulations. They create connections with real-world and real situations. The best ones I prefer – NSTEENS and CK-12.

After doing some research and spending time analyzing the experience of my colleagues, I would add some new ways and changes to my planning process for my future tech-rich units.
I loved reading Kim Cofino’s recommendations and will definitely include them in my planning process.

  • First of all, I will think about what I want students to know and be able to do at the end of this unit.
  • Secondly, I will make my teaching content related to students’ real-life and experiences as much as possible.
  • Thirdly, I will think about possible connections with professionals who could tell students more about certain topics we learn and inspire them with real-life experience and success. I will try to find people from families or communicate with professionals online. This could be a great resource for Skype in the Classroom.
  • The fourth step is to think of how to create a possibility for students to share their experience with a wider audience and even their peers. Other students from the same grade level from other schools is always a great audience for sharing and exchanging.

However, I really do believe the most important step in designing a technology-rich unit is ensuring that you are starting with the student learning goals and outcomes for whatever content area you’re working on. Kim Cofino

Making connections with the real-world is about geeking out

Geeking out is an interest-based process that pushes young people to seek for knowledge as well as feedback, that is usually actively encouraged by people with the same interests. People can even be famous and well known in certain communities. That is an exciting learning process.

Although generally considered marginal to both local, school-based friend-ship networks and to academic achievement, the activities of geeking out provide important spaces of self-directed learning that is driven by passionate interests.
Living with New Media (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)


Creators across different communities often describe an inspiring moment when they received positive feedback and suggestions from a fellow creator whom they respected. It raises the interest in the process and shows how valuable and fun can geeking out be. Of course, we should always be aware that safety first and students should always have in mind that the online world is full of dangers and they have to use critical thinking, no matter how fun and engaging the process of geeking out is!

Learning something new. A new exciting journey reaching for success.

It might be frustrating

Learning something new is one of the best ways to get to the point of real happiness. The learning process changes us and the way we see the world. Moreover, learning new things physically changes our brains.

My First Prussian Ceramics pot

I’ve experienced these effects myself when I started learning… pottery. I did have some knowledge of working with clay, but it wasn’t enough, because I was lacking necessary practical skills. I felt that this was a real push out of my comfort zone. However, I was lucky because I had a chance to participate in the pottery camp, where I could make connections with peer students and professional teachers, which allowed me to learn from all of them and… feel more confident about my own little successes. On the other hand, while at the camp I didn’t have to make my own research on Prussian ceramics – my teachers did it for me and taught me about it. However, later on, I realized that in order to continue improving my pottery skills, I need to do my own research online.
At the ceramics camp, all of my teachers who were masters of ancient pottery were also very different personalities. One of them taught me how to work slowly and patiently, another was giving me recommendations on how to develop my motor skills better and work faster, and the third teacher advised me to feel the clay and its plasticity and always think of it as if it was alive. All of the advice led me to success after all. However, according to Ramit Sethi How to Acquire Any New Skill in 20 Hours or Less article learning a new skill usually is frustrating and it happened to me as well. It would sometimes take me three days to finish a piece of pottery that would require just 3-5 hours of work because of unavoidable moments of frustration which naturally appears during the learning experience. This experience made me comprehend how my students feel while learning something new.

Messing around and research

Messing around is an important part of the learning process. According to the researchers (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning | November 2008) “When messing around young people begin to take an interest in and focus on the workings and content of the technology and media themselves, tinkering, exploring, and extending their understanding.” Messing around purposefully leads the learner to specific research about the learning object. It is mostly a self-directed process that leads to searching for information of interest online. It also includes social moments – people (accidentally or on purpose) exchange and discuss relevant information which is a great way of learning something new. Messing around definitely brings meaningful results/impact on the learning of young people.

Connected Learning

Young people today have the world at their fingertips in ways that were unimaginable just a generation ago.” (Digital Media and Learning Research Hub)
That’s why these days young people have more potential than ever before for learning online and connecting with other learners or even experts. Young people get this process naturally, without any fear. Actually, we, teachers, also could learn this ability from our students.
In the article Learning that Connects by Ph.D. Mimi Ito, emphasizes the importance of the role of educational institutions that need to connect young people’s learning to their social lives, communities, interests, and careers.
“It’s critical that we leverage new technology to build stronger connections between our educational institutions and the world at large. Educational institutions need to connect young people’s learning to their social lives, their communities, their interests and their careers.”

My goal is to learn something NEW

Messing around looking for what new skill I might want to learn brought me to a great finding – an amazing article from Online Course report about 30 most lucrative skills you can learn online. It contains mostly free online resources helping you develop a skill of your choice and many of you might find it useful.

While thinking about the new skill I am going to learn, I am purposefully using my digital research skills to find ideas of what that skill could be and how could I develop it quickly. Since I am teaching my lower school students programming basics (block-based visual programming using Scratch or Hour of Code), I would like to dig into a real programming language such as HTML. While messing around I started focusing more on this topic and as a result, I found some good online resources: The Odin Project and Khan Academy. These resources will help me learn HTML and after a course, I will be completely comfortable with creating a web page and understanding element structure of any other internet page online! In order to expand my horizons while learning, I’ll keep on searching for more resources and will engage in social media channels specializing on this topic in order to build my learning connections.

But how much can you really learn in a very limited amount of time? While learning a new skill I would like to reach the level of knowing enough to self-correct/self-edit. I love this advice of Josh Kaufman on this topic: The first 20 hours — how to learn anything | Josh Kaufman | TEDxCSU. Josh Kaufman recommends starting with deconstructing a skill and breaking it into small pieces. Since my ultimate goal is to learn the basics of HTML programming language, I could split it into smaller goals of learning certain structures, elements and object types. To be honest, I am already feeling a little bit worried if I will be able to achieve the ultimate goal of learning HTML, but this makes me even more curious and I can’t wait to begin and see what could be reached and learned in 20 hours.

Action plan for learning a new skill

Here is my action plan for learning a new skill:
Mess around by searching for the best online resources for learning programming languages.
Deconstruct the skill of my choice.
Make my online research looking for new social media connections I could benefit from while learning HTML.
Establish a routine for developing my new skill. Find an hour in my day for silent focused practicing.
Search Twitter using #HTML and other related hashtags to find more information and resources that will support my learning.
Use the platforms I’ve already discovered – Khan Academy, and The Oden project.
Post my experience on Twitter using the #HTML and utilize social media to ask specific questions or advice.
I am ready…. 🙂

How might this learning experience help me empathize with learners in my classroom/school?

Having written this blog post I’ve realized that even planning of putting myself into the “learners'” chair already made me understand the feelings and frustration of my students much better. Moreover, now I see how much students and learners can benefit from simple messing around and connected/online presence. I’ve once again reminded myself that no matter how big the problem or task is – we can achieve or resolve it by creating a good plan and splitting it into multiple smaller sub-tasks, which are realistic and achievable. I think that using this approach young learners in my school would be more confident and comfortable while facing even the biggest challenges.