From Digital Immigrant to Digital Colonist

Posted by Geoff Belleau on June 17, 2015

School’s out for summer and the digital natives are beyond happy about it.  So are the teachers and administrators! We’re all ready for a break. It gives us an opportunity to slow down and think about things.

Old auto with people coming from Dust Bowl to California
Photo by Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress collection

One of the things I’m thinking about is the whole idea of digital natives. That’s what we call kids today; but if they are digital natives, what are we? Many people have gone with the term digital immigrants. However when I think of immigrants, I think Grapes of Wrath. I picture the hopelessness, despair and tribulations of people fleeing the Dust Bowl to make their way to California. They have hope. They seek opportunities and things that are new.   Yet still, I picture a guy in dusty overalls—maybe John Malkovich’s Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Such images are not a ringing endorsement for encouraging others to try something new.

Several years ago though, I read an article in which the writer coined a new term, digital colonist.1  Digital colonists are the ones who not only move but move in. They build a home in their new place. They make a living. They thrive. For a late Gen X like me this idea struck home and really made me think about how I try to grow my “digital colony” with others.

This spring, for the first time, TICAL held a regional workshop in the Capital City area.  To attract participants, we were getting the word out via the usual digital colonist ways—emailing flyers, tweeting, posting information on LinkedIn. As I was doing my part to publicize the event, it dawned on me, “I don’t think the people I want to be there use these tools!” Only a small number of school administrators use Twitter professionally. Many have set up a LinkedIn page but their effort ends there. How do we reach those dusty digital immigrants and help them set up shop in our new digital colony?

Here are my ideas.

Go old school. Create and print a flyer with the workshop information, then actually take the flyer to those you are targeting. Get it into their hands. You’ll be able to get the flyer to some people yourself, but for others you’ll need help. Tweet a link to the flyer and say, “Friends help friends tweet. Print this and share it with someone you know,” or “Help your principal! Print this and give it to them.” Another approach I took was to post the flyer on my Pinterest Board with a note for teacher to invite their principals. There are some teachers who ignore all other media, but if they follow your board, you have their attention!

Lead with them. Invite someone to go to trainings with you. It’s always more fun to do things with someone else. If you just know a little more than the next guy, you are the expert! It helps those around you know that you are “in.” The personal touch goes a long way for all of us. When we get a personal invitation to go, be honest, it makes one feel special and one of a kind. Who doesn’t want that? It is our job as leaders to build up those around us, and doing it with them, no matter what “it” is, will make them want to come and take notice.

Be an advocate. For as little as you may feel you know, you are still better equipped than anyone else to make a digital change. A teacher may go off to a training and get excited with creative ways to teach and lead these digital natives, but then policies at school, district and state levels prohibit them. Some policies need to be updated, but some can’t be. As leaders at district, county and state level, we are positioned to bring about policy change if needed, and also must be the best communicators and advocates for our students, teachers, and parents. If George Washington popped out of TARDIS today, one of the only things he would recognize is the classroom. We must be as courageous as George to bring about the policy changes needed to accommodate and support digital learning.

The bottom line? We are preparing students for their future with the digital tools of today, not the analog tools of our past. We’ll do a better job when we have friends around us in our digital colony.

What do you think? What other ideas do you have for bringing the immigrants into the digital fold? Leave your comment below!

_______________

1Stern, Ben. “Troubleshooting Advice from a ‘Digital Colonist’ (EdSurge News).” EdSurge. N.p., 24 Dec. 2012. Web. 17 June 2015. <https://www.edsurge.com/news/2012-12-24-troubleshooting-advice-from-a-digital-colonist>

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Print books are still da bomb!

Posted by Lisa Marie Gonzales on June 16, 2015

With the expansion of technology and the social media world accessible to our youngest of generations, it’s no wonder Kindles, Nooks, and iBooks are growing in popularity. In our household, iPads have been the norm for years. But like the emerging trends of the 13–17 year olds in households and schools, our nine-year-old twins prefer…you guessed it…print books!

Girl on couch reading a book.

Recent statistics report that, despite being tech savvy, the 13-17 age group aren’t big e-book consumers. While 20% of teens report purchasing e-books, 25% of 30–44 year olds and 23% of 18–29 year olds buy digital copies.1 While younger readers are open to e-books as a format, the age group continues to express a preference for print that may seem to be at odds with their perceived level of digital savvy.

Are my twingles any different than their older counterparts? It’s doubtful. Several factors play a role in the preference of teens toward print publications, and they are similar to what my mini-me’s have in play.

First of all, their mother still prefers print, be it the traditional get-your-fingers-a-bit-dirty newspaper each morning, the paperback novel that welcomes a dog-ear, or the ability to share a book with a sibling, a friend, a parent. Or maybe it’s the giddy role model I provide when, traipsing around the country, I find a used bookstore full of treasures!

Secondly, the word of mouth power of print books or magazines is much greater than their electronic counterparts, as I recently witnessed with a group of little girls after a football tailgate party. “Oh, I loved that book,” exclaimed one of seven, when looking at a paperback copy of one of the recent Goddess Girls books strewn on a bedroom floor. “Me too!” exclaimed another. My twins watched, and I couldn’t help but ask, “Have you read one?” I would have been stunned if my dirty pant-kneed tomboys had said yes, as the others, clearly girlie girls, headed toward the makeup and music. Yet two days later, having picked up one copy at a used bookstore and coerced one of my daughters to read “just the first fifty pages,” the Little Blonde One admitted the rest were going on her list to Santa.

Finally, my daughters aren’t very visible on social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or blogs unless I’m closely supervising their use on my accounts. However, the teens out there benefit from the bandwagon effect that social media can create around reading resources, especially series. If an author can gather a following with just a couple of books, sales of more are soon to follow.

Guess a screen can’t replace everything.

_______________

1“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: Tech-Savvy Teens Remain Fans of Print Books.” Newswire. Nielsen, 9 Dec. 2014. Web. 16 June 2015. <http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2014/dont-judge-a-book-by-its-cover-tech-savvy-teens-remain-fans-of-print-books.html>.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

When Winning Isn’t Enough.

Posted by Geoff Belleau on December 31, 2014

It's not enough.As 2014 draws to an end, schools are reaching halftime in the Big Game of 2014-2015. Last Sunday, I watched the San Francisco 49ers win their last game of the year, and then bid farewell to a coach who has posted a winning record over the past four years. Twitter blew up with comments like “What are they thinking? Winning isn’t enough?!?” (And those are the nicer comments.) It made me stop to think, which led me to re-write this blog post.

What if winning isn’t enough? What if, over a span of four years, it’s not OK “just” to win and never fail? From what I read, the problem between 49ers management and the coach all boiled down to relationships; they just couldn’t get along.

Relationships matter

Relationships matter. Getting along is important. It is something we try to instill in students early on. “Learn to get along and play nice.” What does that look like today?

It seems to me that there are at least four things we can do as educators so we don’t end up in the same kind of situation the 49ers are experiencing: look for new ways to curate, create, communicate and collaborate.

Curate

First curate. There is so much out there today and so much content. As a school leader or leader anywhere, no one has time to read everything. Also, you don’t want a censored feed delivered. Two of my favorite curated content providers are Zite (now Flipboard) on my mobile/tablet and paper.li on the computer (emailed or tweeted). Only recently have I started tapping all that is available with my Amazon Prime with Amazon music and Amazon movies.

Create

Look for new ways to create and share content with those around you. With a camera (both still and video), recorder, and so many new apps/tools released every day, the possibilities are endless. Teachers are some of the most creative people I know. Who else would take a app designed to make comic books and use it to identify parts of a carburetor in an auto class or document a process using the storyboard feature?  Don’t forget augmented reality apps like Aurasma to create 4D. Or how about starting to asking questions that must be answered with video and students can work together and to record then post the video to your YouTube channel. Be sure to have them answer these three basic questions before diving into a new technology: 1. What training have you had? 2. How will this impact how students learn on a daily basis in your class? 3. How will you keep inventory control? This will help focus the creativity.

Communicate

It seems like we almost can communicate too much now, but it’s a glass half full or half empty view and how each of us views the way and amount of communication that goes on today . Start where we are and let’s see what else we can do! Use Cel.ly, Remind or Twitter to connect with others. Don’t forget classic channels. My family sent out a few printed Christmas cards and letters to those we care about but not in the digital world. There were some tablets, and other mobile devices that were under the tree. Find a way to communicate with those around you using them so that they are a asset and not a hindrance. If you wonder how many devices are in your school or in your district, go sit on a bench during passing period or at lunch on a campus near you and just be a “fly on the wall” watching what comes out of backpacks/pockets as students/teachers move around the campus. How can these assets be tapped instead of banned?

Collaborate

Finally Collaborate. How can this be fostered? What is the difference between collaborating and cheating? Let’s be honest; that is a question that many struggle with. It needs to be answered, though, and a way to do just that is to start. Start small with something like Google Slides and have everyone create a collaborative slideshow. What is your favorite tool/app for collaborating?

There are many things up in the air right now with school funding, changes in staff with retirements, and any number of other forces, but nonetheless halftime for the class of 2015 is right ahead of us. Before we know it, these kids will graduate and a whole new class of seniors will start in the fall—as well as a whole new class of kindergartners with backpacks larger than they are. The time to get busy is now.  It’s not good enough just to win, we also have to get along!

P.S. Share your favorite tools in the comments!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Boys, Girls, and Collaboration

Posted by Skip Johnson on October 29, 2014

I came to school one Monday morning to discover that the contractor who had installed our new playground over the weekend left behind a two cubic yard pile of Fibar—a kind of wood chip used at the base of climbing structures. Being a resourceful principal, I asked for student volunteers to help move this material from our lower school to the garden in the upper part of the campus. About ten fifth and sixth grade boys assembled around the material during lunch. I provided a wheelbarrow and some shovels, and, pointing to the garden on the slope above us, I gave one simple direction: “We need to move this stuff from here to there.”

I figured they would load the material, wheel it down the hallway past three classrooms, go up the pathway on the outside of the campus, through the gate, and dump the stuff in the garden without much intervention on my part. At the beginning of this process two would-be leaders emerged. I’ll call one the drill sergeant and the other the labor negotiator. The drill sergeant took command immediately. He decided who got a shovel, who would commandeer the wheelbarrow, and who would just standby. The labor negotiator, on the other hand, offered compromise and sharing. He proposed a plan that would involve everyone getting an equal shot at every activity. Problem was, the troops wanted nothing to do with either leader; they just wanted to shovel Fibar, push the wheelbarrow, and finish the job. They could manage this without a leader, bossy or sensitive, even if it meant arguing with each other every step through the process.

Incipient anarchy

What ensued bordered on anarchy. The first conflict was over shovels. There were six shovels for ten eager beavers. The second conflict was again over shovels. The boys did not know how to use them properly. Half the shovels had round blades and half were flat. They soon discovered that the flat blades would not easily penetrate the Fibar when attacked in the middle of the pile. However stubbornness prevailed as they tried no other approach. The third problem was the wheelbarrow. Everyone wanted to the be the driver. Ultimately, I stepped into the fracas, assigned roles, and the Fibar was moved.

That scene occurred about ten years ago. In the last two years, we have become a STEM Magnet School with emphasis upon critical thinking, creativity, communication, and most profoundly, collaboration. Many of our learning activities are project-based and incorporate these “4C’s,” with collaboration the essential element. We are also converting our library and former computer lab into a STEM resource center. A few days ago, as part of this conversion, we took delivery of a large amount of LEGOS. These needed to be separated by color and placed into bins in the resource center. Some fourth grade girls had just asked me if they could do service for the school, so I recruited them to do the sorting. They arrived in the library during lunch with a couple of fifth grade girls in tow. I showed them the six boxes of LEGOS and described the task: “Each box contains six packages of LEGOS. Each package contains 100 pieces in six assorted colors. The task is to separate the individual pieces by color and place them back into the boxes so every box holds pieces of a single color.”

The girls took all the packages out of the boxes, began opening them, and sorting by color. I stood back and watched. While the scene did not specifically conjure images of shovels and Fibar, I did have a definite feeling of deja vu.

“I have an idea.”

Within three minutes one of the girls said, “Let’s stop, I have an idea. Why don’t we each do a part of this without each doing the same thing.” In another couple minutes, they had created a division of labor: package openers and spreaders, sorters by color, and pickers who would take the sorted pieces to their respective box. In about twenty minutes they were finished. What impressed me the most was that they listened to the first girl’s idea, offered suggestions on how to implement it, volunteered to take on specific roles, and completed the task. If that is not true collaboration then I do not know what is.

Why the difference?

Students working in the Longfellow School Garden
What explains the difference in the way each group of students performed? I am hoping that it is our emphasis on teaching collaboration in the classroom. The girls have had to deal with open-ended tasks and project-based learning for at least two years. Ten years ago, when I tasked the boys with moving the Fibar, their classroom experience was pretty much of the direct instruction, follow specific directions, and repeated drill variety. On the other hand, some might argue the difference could be due to gender—boys compete, girls cooperate. Or it might simply be differences in the personality mix of each group of individuals. Regardless, what I’d like to know is, would the shovel brigade have responded differently if they had gone through a couple of years of well executed Common Core in a project-based learning environment? Perhaps I should order several cubic feet of Fibar and find out!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

The Loss of Lost

Posted by Tim Landeck on October 10, 2014

Woods with snowWe were lost, I mean really lost! I was with my 17 year old son, and it was the second day of our 30 day backpack trip to conquer all 230 miles of the John Muir Trail. The first day had been smooth but when we left Yosemite Valley and hit snow, the trail disappeared, and so did our knowledge of exactly where we were. We saw plenty of trees and snow but no footprints or signs of any sort to follow. Should we turn back and find our way to where we first began the day, or follow our plan to find the next campsite?

When was the last time you were terribly lost—lost in such a way that you weren’t sure if you should go left, right, forward or backward? You may not have been in the woods. Perhaps you were standing on a street corner or speeding down a freeway. My guess is that it has been a while since you felt such a strong sense of being lost.

About a year ago I was walking the narrow streets of Venice, Italy, with my wife. We were looking for a particular restaurant for dinner when we came to a dark dead end. My wife turned to me and asked, “Now what?” Using my 21st century instincts, I whipped out my iPhone and launched Google Maps. “Look” I said, “We are here where the blue dot is pulsing and we just need to follow the map to here.” We did as I suggested, and within a few minutes we were seated at a table in a romantic paradise alongside a small canal filled with silent gondolas. What if we hadn’t had that jewel of a device to show us the way?

Later that night, as we were walking back to our hotel, we overheard a couple stressing out about being lost in Venice. “Aren’t you supposed to get lost in Venice and enjoy it?” one said to the other. “I have no idea where we are!” gasped the other. They folded up their paper map and apprehensively walked on. We have no idea how long it took to find their destination, but they did appear to experience the true feeling of lost.

As I watched the couple disappear around the corner, I began to reminisce about that second day on the John Muir Trail when the sun was setting and we still hadn’t found our campsite. The feeling of lost in the backcountry with snow all around and not knowing which way to turn is different than walking aimlessly with a belly full of wine through the streets of Venice, but both are on the “spectrum of lost.”

Personal GPS devices and satellite mapping of the earth have eliminated the ability to get lost. Give a GPS device to a person who would never want to admit to being lost, and lost will never happen again. Everyone wants to be “in the know” and to have the answer. Ask a factual question to a group of Google hipsters and watch as the smartphones come out and the answer is revealed within moments. It is no longer important to know the answer (where you are) but more importantly how to quickly find the answer (your destination). GPS has meant the loss of lost and the Internet has provided the mechanism to find whatever you seek. In education we need to work within this new reality and help students learn ways to access information instead of memorizing it. While there is still a place for memorization, because there is too much information (dead ends in Venice) available today, we have no option but to approach education differently.

That said, there is still an argument to be made that not knowing, or getting lost, is healthy and good for the brain. As Rebecca Solnit says in her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost, “…to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.” Being fully present is a goal that many of us seek daily but have trouble realizing on a regular basis. Maybe we just need to get lost more often.

With strong perseverance and a lot of luck, my son and I did finally reach our next campsite before complete darkness. The rest of the trip was successful with only map and compass. I admit, however, that—against my son’s wishes—I had tried twice to purchase a personal GPS gadget to guide us through the snow to our Mount Whitney destination, but as of two years ago, neither shops in Yosemite Valley nor Bishop had any for sale. Thank goodness, for we would have lost the opportunity to be lost!

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr