Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Room to learn

CC image via flickr by Marcin Wichary 
I have decided to step off of the stage and remove my sage sash (say it 5 times fast...go!). In my digital & Information literacy course my students are the authors of their learning, not me. I still present a new tool or lesson at the beginning of class, but I hardly remain on stage longer than five minutes. This is merely a demonstration. In many classes I am learning with the students and seen as a resource.  As a result I have noticed happier, more engaged students. Plus, I have witnessed students asking more relevant questions, thinking their way through a problem rather than me telling them, and seeking out all available resources to find a solution. In short the learning is theirs they own it.

The project at the end of this post is something my class is working on at the moment and I’d like to share it with you. The objective is to create a comprehensive guide for digital citizenship and understanding your digital identity and privacy. I designated project managers and provided objectives and outcomes for the class along with a five point structure of what should be covered.

As this project progresses, so has my classroom dynamic.  I walk into class, briefly check in with the project managers, and watch the students work. Yesterday, I came in an introduced them to Diigo. I presented this tool for roughly five minutes and then let them get to work. As soon as I finished presenting I witnessed a bustling office with everyone seeking out his or her task for the day. Students were moving around the room and communicating with each other. I could over hear problem deconstruction and decisions being made. Throughout each period all of their progress is documented on a shared Google doc. Each team, as well as the project managers, shares a doc with me. As they develop and accomplish tasks, they add them and eventually check them off on the Google doc. I witness communication, networking with other groups, community building, problem solving, critical thinking, and engagement. My class functions like most places of work. It’s relevant.

I encourage you to steal the project below and make it better. In fact, remix and share it with others. I will share the final result once students complete this project. Don’t feel this type of learning is impossible in core subjects. This type of project has potential across all content areas and all the way up Bloom’s taxonomy. Also, this is not a technology driven lesson. Students could complete the same type of project without any technology in the classroom.

Instead of a Google doc students could collaborate on large post-it easel paper. They could conduct research in their library and pull all available resources to find the most current, credible articles on the subject of digital citizenship. They could use pen and paper to take notes and interview teachers, students and administrators.

I could go on, but you get my point. This is not ground breaking or anything profound. It simply puts the onus on the student to learn by doing and own their learning. Students can find their niche in this project and learn something that interests them. I encourage you, the reader, and the educator, to try this. Take off your sage sash and see what happens. I imagine you will discover, along with your students, some pretty amazing results.
Today we are about to embark on another exciting project. Once again our class must come together as a team and create a comprehensive guide for understanding digital citizenship and knowing how to take care of your digital identity.


Develop a comprehensive guide for maintaining your digital identity and understanding your web privacy. Your target audience should be high school students.

Your appointed project managers are                              


What you should present at the conclusion of this project...

1. Have a website that you can showcase your information, research, and media you find on digital citizenship, web privacy, and maintaining a healthy digital identity. This website will showcase your findings and serve as a resource for future BHS students and high school students beyond Burlington. You should include information you find, links, interviews, videos, pictures, etc. The media you post must be authored by you or cited properly.

2. Go to the source: Interview students, teachers, parents, and administrators and ask them what they know about digital citizenship and maintaining their digital identity. All interviews must have consent and highlight that this information will be posted online publicly. NOTE: You may want to seek out a generic consent form.

3. Submit research and studies that detail why it is imperative to maintain and understand your digital identity as a high school student. This can come in the form of interviews with teachers, administrators, experts, or articles you find on line. Any assertion you make must include supporting evidence. Remember, you are presenting support for those that say students in high school have no business on these sites. Prove them wrong.

4. Cover all the bases: Think about what sites your peers use and find out all the good, the bad, and the ugly concerning these sites. Check out Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Formspring, Blogs, etc. and detail why students can be trusted to use this type of forum to empower their voice and present research to back up your points. NOTE: You may want to include sections for each site on your website. One link could be an entire guide about understanding your Facebook privacy settings.

5. Many say that BHS is crazy for allowing students to use iPads, and mobile phones in class; present examples of what we are doing and why we are doing it. Provide examples in the form of research and studies as to why we allow these devices. Also poll teachers and administrators.

Grading notes...
You will be graded on your interaction and engagement with your team/group and feedback from your project managers. I suggest that each team, once assembled, shares a Google doc with me and the other members should post daily progress and any information you gather. This documentation will be the bulk of your grade. The end result will speak for itself. I am more interested in the process, your interaction with each other each day in class, and how you accomplish a task as a team.


I want the project managers to propose a working time frame for completing this project. Once submitted, we will stick to that schedule. If we need to adjust the schedule, the project managers must connect with me and provide support for extending the time.

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