About Me

After 23 years as a high school social studies teacher, I have taken a leap into library media.
This blog chronicles my experiences making this transition and my learning in that process.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Making Converts

For several weeks it felt like spring would never happen. It was cold and dreary. We were having snow days in April and the year kept getting longer. Finally, the sun came out, the air warmed, and it started to feel like the year was winding down. There was prom. Now the seniors are leaving for internship. The exam schedule has been published. And that is either coinciding with or maybe causing a shift in the thinking of a few of my colleagues. This is what I am hearing:

- They need to do project.

- The seniors should do something fun before they go.

- They are checking out; I need a way to hook them back in.

And, then, a couple of them asked: can you explain that makerspace to me again?

Of course! YES! I would love to! And then I put some pipe cleaners in their hand while we talk.

This week I have been working with a Social Studies teacher in two of her classes and with an English teacher colleague in two of her classes - both pairs of classes are a mixture of juniors and seniors.

Today was the project due date for the Social Studies classes and here is how the teacher described what happened:

"We had a board game day today and the class broke into groups to play each of the games. And I did what you said, I told everyone they couldn't play their own game because one test of the effectiveness of the game was whether or not someone could follow the directions and understand how to play without them there to explain it all. And they didn't want to leave their games! They were so proud of them, they wanted to be sure that everyone else really appreciated and understood them." And then she added, "Remember that kid I told you about who still owes me so much work from last quarter? The one who never does any of the assignments? He made the coolest board game! He refused to leave his game. Flat out refused. And I let him stay so he could have that pride in what he had done."

That's when I told her a story about a group of girls in her class who had worked together on their project. They did all of their work in the classroom until the very last project work day. On that day my colleague, their teacher, was out. To get away from the sub, the students decided to work in The Garage (our makerspace). When they arrived they asked me, "what are we supposed to do?" I put pipe cleaners in their hands and replied "Well, what do you need?" They said they needed a spinner and playing pieces. So I asked: "Well, what should the pieces look like or represent?"

You know where this is going... those pipe cleaners were quickly bent into a prototype of the animal shapes they needed. I directed them to our bins of supplies and recyclables and they looked at me with open mouths; "Has this been here all year?!" they asked. I nodded. They grabbed each others arms and exclaimed: "Can we come here during a free and just make stuff?" I told them, "Of, course!" To which they responded: "This makes me so happy!"

I couldn't join their class for project sharing day because my English colleague brought her classes to The Garage for their first full-period making session. This project is the culmination of their study of Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle. Last week, I introduced the project to them with this discussion of unattainable dreams, symbols, and the relationship between artists and their audience.

Less than a minute into class she leaned over and said, "Oh! This is amazing. I am so glad you are getting pictures of this! Should I take some, too?" Here is what was so amazing. Complete and total engagement in selecting the only required element of their project: a piece of glass. The students were sharing and comparing. Discussing the merits of clear vs. translucent glass. Shape and texture were important, too. Then I delivered a 3-minute orientation to the space, listing a variety of materials from pom poms to old "steampunk" hardware and ended with: "If you are thinking about a material you can't find, just ask." That's it. They were off!

Once they had been planning, designing, and experimenting for about 10 minutes, I approached a small
group who were intently debating the best way to attach two parts of a project. I asked what problem they were trying to solve and they showed me and launched into an explanation of the merits of the different solutions they were entertaining. Their English teacher approached and looked over my shoulder, and the students entirely shifted gears. "Don't worry, don't worry!" they said. "It's going to be good. You're gonna like it. There is a good reason for what we are doing. I promise: we are working."

My colleague pulled me away from them and asked, "Did you see that? Did you see what just happened? As soon as I walked over it became all about the grade, about reassuring me they were making something I would like. This is entirely different than when you come to our classroom. Our roles here are totally different. But they are thinking so intently and in such different ways. I mean, look at them! Some of these kids checked out weeks ago and now they are so engaged I can't even talk to them!"

The best observation came next:

"You need to come to one of our department meetings at the very beginning of the year next year and tell everyone about this. And then people like me will back you up. I know you told us about it at a meeting earlier this year, but we didn't get it. But now there are more of us to help people get it."

I will gratefully accept an opportunity to discuss making with them. And, next time, I will bring pipe cleaners!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What started as a proposal to present at a conference became this blog post

Print tabloid journalism was one-way information distribution. No matter how much the headlines yelled at passersby from the newsstand, they couldn’t yell back. Standing in the grocery checkout line, all you can do is scan the all-caps headlines yelling at you from the pages and passively receive their messages. To dispute the claim that Elvis fathered an alien love child, required that you purchase the journal, write a letter, stuff it in an envelope, find the address in the journal, address and stamp the letter, deliver it to a mailbox… Right. It wasn’t going to happen because it likely wasn't worth it. Digital delivery of and access to information happens at an ever accelerating pace, and we can and do respond, instantly, from anywhere, at any time. The limits of time, place, and access imposed on us by in-real-life civic participation sometimes also serve to temper our contributions to these discussions. So how do we foster productive, thoughtful, effective engagement in digital communities?

Perhaps we could debate the notion that digital citizenship (not the behaviors, but the state of being connected) is a choice. After all, being born (as I was) in the United States by default conferred citizenship status upon me. But digital citizenry required me to make a choice to join a community (actual, multiple communities) and agree to their standards of conduct. Even though I periodically self-impose a digital citizenry hiatus upon myself, I can’t imagine this as a permanent state of being. Whether we distinguish ourselves from our children, our students, or a younger generation as digital immigrants vs. digital natives, joining a digital citizenry is, to some extent and at least at some point, a choice. If we choose to be and to educate digital citizens we must hone a new and complex skill set. We must:
  • Develop graphicacy: the ability to unpack images that blend data, text, and iconography
  • Think like fact-checkers: triangulate the information we consume to verify its origin, purpose, and accuracy
  • Understand our own bias: know when our bias prevents us from critically seeing someone else’s and inclines us to confuse opinion with evidence
  • Empathize: understanding and accepting the hopes, fears, and other motivating factors in another person’s life is essential to building constructive dialogue
  • Employ emotional intelligence: recognize when an emotional response to something is suppressing our ability to speak or write with measure. 

Consider Dylan Marron starting a podcast of phone calls with the people who leave hate comments on his videos. Marron’s conversations help him and his detractors build empathy with one another. Marron invites people who posted rather hateful comments to and about him to discuss their opinions with him. He doesn't seek to convert, only to understand them. In return, they reflexively dial down their vitriol in favor of a reasonable exchange of ideas. Proving that agreeing to disagree can be an acceptable and productive outcome to dialogue.

We could make Dylan Marron's life a little easier (although that might rob him of an incredible podcast) because it is possible to teach our students to engage in effective digital dialogue. Empathy and emotional intelligence, combined with media literacy are the keys to healthy digital citizens and productive digital community interactions. Kristin Mattson writes convincingly and authoritatively about how to foster a networker's mindset and build students' effective digital communication skills through guided practice unpacking digital conversations that scaffolds to the ultimate goal: positive and productive digital agency.

A couple of months ago I was fortunate to work with a group of students at my school piloting the anti-cyberbullying curriculum designed by the Trust and Safety group at Google in partnership with media production company, Harmony Labs. The key to the effectiveness of this curriculum is that all the material is delivered via virtual reality. By immersing themselves in the scenarios they are going to discuss, actually becoming a part of the scene, students are drawn to certain characters in the video they are watching. They are likely also put off by or dislike characters. And they can be guided to watch and follow a certain character as a story unfolds seeing the action as that person sees it. Again, it's all about empathy. All of the videos are accessible on YouTube via the phones students carry in their pockets and the virtual reality experience is made possible with a Google Cardboard. I like the symmetry of using the power of media access provided by their phones to teach them to use their phones (and all they can access via them) to conduct themselves wisely.

This experience with the anti-cyberbullying curriculum reminded me of Anna Deavere Smith's TED performance: Four American Characters. When I was a history teacher I used her talk in my US History classes to show students why primary sources mattered to understanding history. "Look what she is doing," I used to say to my students, "spending so much time with a person that she can become that person. That is what primary sources do for you. If you can wrestle with them and unpack them, they return you to a place a in time to live a moment the way a real person experienced it." After I discovered this 2005 TED talk, I started building living tableaux with my students. I would present them with an iconic historical photograph and let them work in teams to pose one another in order to replicate the action of the photo. Then, they worked together to unpack the image we had reconstructed in order to understand the motivations of the people depicted. We would consider how the image we were examining was distributed, what voice the subjects of the image had in its making and distribution, and what we need to keep in mind as viewers of this snapshot of a moment in time composed by someone else with his/her/their own purpose or agenda. Finally, we compared the historical image to a very current one to illustrate the challenge in applying these skills to media that incites a visceral response and inclines viewers to unsavory, hateful, or otherwise nonconstructive posts. Or inhibits viewers from engaging in dialogue about posts that are hateful, discriminatory, or in some way offensive. (For more on this methodology, see this post.)

That's empathy.What Deavere did, what Marron does, what we must do as educators, is provide our students as many ways as we can, to develop empathy with the subjects of their studies, with the authors of the information they consume; so that they can compose their reactions (whether those reactions are research papers or social media comments and posts) from a place of insight into the motives and experiences of the original author and self-awareness about what their digital relationship with that person is and can be.

So, given that this started as a conference proposal, would you attend this workshop?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Design Thinking to build a unit with a Science Colleague

It likely comes as no surprise to know that as a library media specialist, my most frequent collaboration is with Social Studies and English teachers. This week I ventured into new territory co-planning a unit with a Chemistry teacher. She contacted me because, as the teacher of AP Chemistry, she will have some found time between the administration of the exam and the end of our school year. She was hoping I could help her plan something meaningful and interesting for her students.

This conversation became a two-fold exercise in applying design thinking! First, I put aside the different ideas that were bouncing around my head, things I thought might interest the students. Instead of offering suggestions (which is what she hoped I would do when she came to me), I started asking her questions. What outcome would make her think the time was well spent? What difficulties did she have this year when teaching the class? Or what difficulty had the students had? As I listened to her share about her year, I gained empathy with her as a teacher, as a teacher of a specific discipline, and as a teacher of a particular high stakes course. That helped me to hear things she was saying, like: “It’s more my Honors Chem students (an entirely different class) who have trouble with some of the concepts of their class, but I don’t have time for a big project with them.”

I asked her, “Do you have enough time to ask them to share what areas or concepts caused them the most difficulty?” She said that she didn’t have to ask, she knew. I pushed again by saying, “Your insight about their struggle is really important, and could you put together a form that asks them to tell you? It would be interesting to see their self-awareness.” She agreed that would be an interesting comparison. Then I asked, “How might we harness the found time in AP to empower the AP students to help the Honors class finish the year strong and prepare for their final exam?” And a project was born!

We started, organically, thinking 10X and growing the idea with “Yes! And…” It went like this:

- “We can start with a survey of the Honors Chem classes…’
- “Yes! And, we can ask each AP student to choose to work on one of the problems identified.”
- “Yes! And, they can interview the students in Honors to understand why that concept was difficult.”
- “Yes! And, the AP students can build new teaching materials for the students to use to practice the concept.”
- “Yes! And, next year those materials can be used again to differentiate for the new class!”

So that was the first layer of design thinking. The cool thing is that the product of that planning session was to put the AP classes through a design thinking exercise as the path to developing their solution to the learning problems of their peers! My colleague asked for reassurance that I would be with her (and her students) throughout the process. She also asked a bunch of “what if” questions. Mostly they were about what if something goes wrong. I asked, what do the AP classes lose if their projects flop? Not much really. What does the Honors class lose? Again, nothing. They don’t gain anything, but very little of their time and energy is invested in the project. They are the beneficiaries if all goes well. I then asked if she would lose anything if all goes awry. She didn’t hesitate to say, not really. She likes her students (and they like her), she considers them eager learners, thoughtful people, and she trusts them. Ultimately, she realized that if this flops, they will be rather forgiving. That is when I felt safe to tell her, it won’t flop. It may evolve differently than we anticipate, and that is OK. Ultimately, everyone stands to gain much more than anyone stands to lose. And then she asked if I could write up the unit plan.

So here is the project outline that the students in AP Chem will follow: 

The exam is over. (Phew!) 

The final lab is complete. (YES!)

Now we have the gifts of found time, sophisticated chemistry expertise, and a cohort of innovative risk-takers. Here is how we will use these gifts to solve problems and keep learning ourselves:

To start, we will survey the grade 10 students in Honors Chem. What we want to know about each student is:
What was the hardest content or skill for you to master this year?
Or, looking ahead to the final exam, what potential questions or problems most concern you?

This is where YOU, the students in AP Chem enter the equation. Each of you will choose one of the issues identified by your 10th grade peers and design a learning module to help them overcome their struggle.

You will use this guiding design question to frame your work:

How might we create learning experiences to help students who struggle with _________ concept?

These are the steps we will follow to design and answer to that question:

User Discovery (Also called stakeholder interviews)
(Anticipated date of completion: June __)
This can be a one-on-one interview with the grade 10 student whose problem you are trying to solve. If multiple students identify the same area of difficulty this can be a focus group. In the event that you can’t coordinate schedules, this can be done via a Form, Doc or Google Hangout. (protocol outlined below)

Ideate: Crazy 8’s
(Anticipated date of completion: June __)
Ms. Whiting will visit the AP classes to guide you through an ideation (think: brainstorming) exercise and then thinking 10X by using the “Yes! And…” protocol. (outlined below)

(Anticipated date of completion: June __)
You, each of the students in both AP classes, will choose your best idea, perhaps partnering with someone solving the same or similar problem, and build a rudimentary prototype of your idea that can be tested with your stakeholder or stakeholder focus group.

(Anticipated date of completion: June __)
Once you have received feedback on your design, you will revise your plan and begin to build your final product.

(Anticipated date of completion: June __)
If all goes according to plan, you will deliver your learning support materials to the Honors classes so that the students in honors can use the materials to study for their final exam.

Rejoice! (never stop rejoicing :)

FYI: Ms. Whiting will be vlogging this exercise to share with the our faculty and beyond.


The best way to learn about your users is to ask questions. Meet the students who identified your problem; if there are multiple people try to talk to all of them. Use this space to develop questions to ask them. It is ideal to go out and talk to the Honors Chem students, but if you can’t, you could also send an email with a few questions, or send out a survey in a Google Form. Don’t forget, you can Google Hangout with them as well.

USER Info: Honors Chem student (who is this person?)
Assumed Problem: What do you, the student in AP think is causing the difficulty?

Interview Notes: What does the student from Honors Chem tell you?

Now consider:
  • WHO are you users?
  • WHAT are their needs?
  • HOW do they behave?
  • WHY do they behave that way?
Who Am I: Did I have this same problem? Am I challenged to understand why my stakeholder struggled?

We will give you a large piece of blank paper -- it won’t be blank for long!

Fold it in half 3X, when you open it up, it will look like this:

You will draw 8 different possible solutions (one in each box); for each box you will have 40 seconds to draw your idea.

There are NO bad ideas!

Think BIG! Imagine if you had access to all the information and resources that you could need.

Following this exercise, we will think 10X by using an exercise called, “Yes! And…” to expand and improve your initial ideas.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Living Tableaux: kinesthetic lessons in empathy and digital citizenship

Whether you are a library media specialist, a teacher of social studies or art history or ELA or any other discipline that incorporates art and photography as a teaching tool or element of content, building living tableaux -- people posing to replicate a 2D image -- is a classroom exercise that has so many learning benefits for students! It is a kinesthetic experience that challenges students to develop empathy with the figures being depicted and even fosters conversations about digital citizenship.

To form a tableau, I allow students time to scan the painting, then ask them to choose a person on whom they want to focus. Alternately, you can group the students and assign each group one character from the painting to consider. Then I ask students to stare at just that person and to think and wonder about that person while looking at him/her. I give them a moment to jot down what thoughts, feelings, and questions they have before moving to the next step. For this exercise, let’s imagine that we are studying Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump by Joseph Wright.

Once students have collected their thoughts, I ask for a student from each group to volunteer to become the person s/he scrutinized from the painting. These students then assemble themselves in the middle of the classroom in a re-creation of the painting. Once they are set, the rest of the class can adjust “the posers” by re-positioning them for accuracy, directing their body language and facial expressions. They may apply props from the classroom to enhance the living replication of the original. 

Students will have to break the tableau to participate in the discussion so, if possible, take a picture of the students in their arrangement and post it for them to see alongside the image of the original work. When analyzing and discussing paintings, I always remind my students that every element of a painting is the conscious choice of the artist. Even happy accidents that remain in the final work do so because the artist decided they should stay. Every color, brushstroke, facial expression, object is there by choice and design. Therefore, as viewers of the painting, in order to fully engage in the artist’s message, purpose or intent, we must ask “Why?”

Before discussing, I ask students to engage in some reflective writing. I give them a few minutes to collect their thoughts about what their person: thinks, feels, wonders, fears, hopes, sees, believes. I prompt students to consider gender and gender identity, age, attire, body language, facial expression, relationship to the group, etc. as they collect their thoughts. Before we discuss the painting as a class, the students share these reflections with their small group.

I transition to whole class discussion by asking those students who posed in the tableau to share how it felt to be the person? What were they thinking about as they held the facial expression and posture of their person?

Then, I ask other students to share their observations of the person they examined. Once they have explored the figures individually, I prompt them to consider the relationships between the people in the painting and finally, I ask what they think this painting is about. For an artwork like Joseph Wright’s Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, I prompt them to push past the literal… it is a painting about an experiment (which it is), because it is also a painting of risk-taking, of questioning or inquiry, of seeking answers, of fear. In fact, I have used this painting as an introduction to a unit on the Enlightenment and students have come to the conclusion that this is a painting of the moment of becoming Enlightened. At that point, I draw their attention the man in red. Why is he (and the bird) the only person looking at us, the viewer? What is our role in the experiment? Why did the artist make us complicit in the secret proceedings?

Once you know something, you can never un-know it. Once people start to question and seek answers and learn new realities, the world can never be the same. Welcome to the Enlightenment!

This exercise can be applied to a photo as well as a painting or other work of art. Consider photos that capture emotionally dramatic events like the iconic 1957 image of Elizabeth Eckford, pursued by Hazel Bryan, as she navigates the mob on her way to Central High School in Little Rock. Begin by selecting two students to reproduce the central figures, Eckford and Bryan. Then slowly add class members to the composition one at a time.

Ask students to closely consider the facial expressions of each person. What does the expression tell us about the emotions the person is experiencing in the moment this photograph was made? Push students to consider feelings beyond “mad” or “angry”. Ask them to consider what is motivating the emotions they think they see.

Ask students to discuss how well they think they think understand the people whose faces are not showing a lot of emotion. How can we understand people we can not visually read? Why are some people stoic and others agitated? How does someone maintain composure in such a circumstance?

Finally, ask students to consider who these people are today. Could they ever in their lives be recognized as anything other than who they were at this moment? No one in this photo posed for its making, yet the widespread and ongoing distribution of this photo has defined these people for generations. Ask the students: “How are you defining yourself and being defined by others in social media and other contexts?”

Big Takeaway
Visual texts in any media are powerful primary sources. Exercises like this equip students to examine and unpack these sources when they are doing independent research and help students build the reflective capacity for understanding their own image creation and distribution.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

How might we... engage in Gatsby?

I am preparing to embark on a new collaborations with a colleague in the English department. It will be a unit-long project-based exercise so we will work together for about four weeks. I have tested the methodology on a small scale with a social studies teacher while helping to introduce a project-based assessment. While extended collaboration between a library media specialist and a discipline teacher is not uncommon, in my experience it generally happens around research units, so it is exciting to be co-facilitating in a new capacity!

In English
For the English unit, the class will be reading The Great Gatsby. The teacher's literary priorities are for the students to explore:
  • private vs. public theme
  • unreliability of the narrator
  • the malleable nature of memory
  • conscious and unconscious creation of self
Because this is not an inter- or trans-disciplinary curriculum or course, the English teacher as invited a history teacher to direct a couple of lessons at the beginning of the unit to contextualize Fitzgerald and the novel.

With these teachers serving as the discipline or content experts, my role is to guide the students through the creation of a project in which they explore the intersection of the literary themes and history. In order to maximize student ownership of the project design, I am returning to the lessons of the Innovator Academy and introducing the students to  the "How might me...?" questions. This stem is the gateway to diverse and powerful ways of understanding and beginning to solve a problem. By viewing the communication of their insights as a problem to be solved, "how might we..." will push students to harness their strengths and talents as creators in order to tap into nuances of the text and its resonance across decades.

For example, there are so many possibilities for what a student could do in response to this question: "How might we expose the layers of self that Jay Gatz created?" This question could be asked in other ways such as, "How might we explain Jay Gatz’s compulsion to be someone else?" A student who chooses to turn his/her focus to the narration of the novel could ask: "How might we compensate for Nick’s unreliability as a narrator?" Students will have agency over the question that guides their inquiry and determines what they create.

Also important is that the question can be completed in so many ways for students to access any of the literary elements and rhetorical devices they will be studying. Consider these uses of "how might we..."
  • Amp up the good (Doesn’t Nick grow?)
  • Remove the bad (We are onto Nick, so it is OK)
  • Question assumptions (Who says he is unreliable?)
  • Use unexpected resources (Are there other characters offering their versions of events?)
  • Challenge the status quo (It’s not the narrator’s job to relate to us)
  • Address PoV (Would Jordan tell the story better? Which character barely speaks and how can we give him/her voice?)
  • Go after adjectives (like “unreliable;” maybe he is uninformed or naive?)
  • Play against the challenge (If Fitzgerald wanted us to compensate for Nick, he would have written a different narrator)
  • Explore opposites (How might we remove the need for a narrator?)
  • Employ analogies (Nick, as a narrator, is like, chocolate as a…)

Once each student chooses the How Might We problem s/he wants to pursue, we will provide brainstorming tools to help them explore the possible solutions. (Crazy 8’s is one example of a tool or protocol).

Students will partner with critical friends in the class and discuss the merits of each idea and choose the one they will prototype and ultimately create.

In Social Studies
With the students in 9th grade World History, I introduced "How might we..." in a very different context. This is a class of 55 students divided into two sections. Each section must work as a unit for this project. Here are the questions the teacher has outlined for the students:
  • What is progress?  (craft a definition of what progress means for a society)
  • Examine the 14th-17th century in Western Europe and determine if (and if so how) the Renaissance and Protestant Reformation were a time of progress.
  • Conclusion:  Why does this matter?  What drives progress?  What keeps society from progressing, perfection of institutions or individual challenge of institutions?

The only other criteria is that they may not deliver an oral presentation. Each section must devise a way to convince the other section of their thesis without a formal debate or stand-and-deliver talk. That's where "How might we..." comes in.

I guided the students through an exercise to determine the best means of conveying their argument and evidence beginning with: how might we best convey our findings and conclusion without talking directly to the other group? Exploring this prompt required them to consider the scope of their findings and the various media they contain. It also necessitated understanding their audience and the mode or modes of delivery most likely to sustain their interest and be accessible to all of them.

Let's say that one group decided what is most important is for the other group hear the music, public debates, and other sounds happening during these centuries. They could produce a podcast or radio show. They could create a music video by quoting and re-contextualizing music and words of the era. Lots of possibilities if they start to think aurally.

Maybe the other group decided what is important is touch. You have to hold the artifacts in your hand to understand how they worked and why they matter. They will be very busy in The Garage (our makerspace) then!

Sight can be the students' default mode. In this instance maybe they will decide to curate a museum exhibit using Google Arts and Culture. Or create a virtual reality simulation using a our 360 degree camera to take a photo or video of a scene or scenes they create. Or a living scavenger hunt where they find class members dressed in period costumes. Given how image rich these centuries were, yet another possibility is that they might build a mosaic using many images to combine and form a dominant image which they can then annotate.

What's really exciting to me, is that these students are owning the means by which they explore the content and by which they convey their learning. When their creative thinking and varied skill sets and experiences combine for this exercise I am confident the results will be amazing.

More, soon...

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hacking Assessments with AR: a podcast interview

One of my students (Ben) and I recently chatted with David Hotler (@dhotler) about the extraordinary work Ben is doing in his independent study as a member of our student help desk team. Our conversation was a follow up to a blog post I wrote about Ben's exploration of virtual reality and his application of his learning to his classroom assessment.

You can listen to the edtechteam podcast via David's blog. Updates on Ben's work will be on-going. He has completed his math project in Metaverse and below is a video in which he reflects on what he learned:

Ben is now in the planning stages for an English project. After that he plans to tackle to periodic table. Stay tuned... more soon! 

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Social Media Infused Classroom: Mediated Messages 2.0

I have written a few times about my experiences as a member of the Certified Google Innovator #SWE17 cohort and the ongoing learning as part of #GoogleEI . The focus of my application to the Innovator Academy (and the ongoing thread of my work with students and my colleagues) is the development of media literacy. The importance of media literacy can not be understated. Nor can the value of social media as a teaching, learning, and publishing tool.

In the latest iteration of my Innovator project, Mediated Messages, I have added a section on lesson ideas and launched a Facebook group for building a collaborative community dedicated to expanding our capacities for media literacy instruction. Social media is a multi-faceted education tool; it can be used for personalizing instruction, as a research resource, to foster global engagement, and to provide authentic digital citizenship practice. Here are examples of it being used or practiced in each of these contexts.

For Personalizing
In this previous blog post I wrote about my collaboration with an English teacher creating The Selfie Project. Ultimately, as a corollary to their study of Transcendentalism, the students used the makerspace to create 3D representations of self (we called it, "Yourself, in tangible relief"). The project started with an examination of all of the ways a student's identity can be explored, including through playlists, social media, school pictures, the contents of their bedrooms, and their school data. The lesson steps are here and this is a gallery of pictures of the students and their work

For Research
Understanding "Journalistic Truth" and the impact of digital media on our sources of information is essential to student development of savvy research skills. The journalistic truth slides outline a two-period lesson I co-delivered with an English teacher to the students in the non-fiction writing class.

Finding experts and research or non-profit foundations on social media is another excellent way for students to collect valuable insight and potential interview subjects to inform their inquiry.

For Global Engagement
An educator with a global PLN has the resources to connect students with adults and other students around the world for a sharing of culture and point-of-view. Exposure and interaction builds empathy and collaboration. My favorite experience using social media as a teaching tool happened when I was a social studies teacher working with a group of American Studies students. We were studying the cold war and I happened to have a Tweep who is an educator living in eastern Germany. She joined my class for a twitter chat about life in eastern Germany behind the wall and after the wall came down. We were scheduled to chat for 30 minutes and ended up chatting for the entirety of a 70 minute block period. During that time a few of her teacher colleagues joined the conversation as did her daughter who was a student at university. Now my students had both adults and a peer with whom to share perspectives. Several of my students and Ines' daughter began following each other on Instagram, too. The conversation began as a discussion of cold war life and evolved into a discussion of how do we each learn about the other. It was a rich exchange that far exceeded my expectations when Ines and I were planning it!

Teachers at my school haven't yet warmed to Twitter but they are enjoying Flipgrid in closed, classroom-based exercises. Expanding their grids to include participation outside of our school will be a first step building PLNs.

As anyone in the Google Innovator program knows, my cohort, my coach, and my mentor are unparalleled in their support of my work and the counsel they provide. And it's all happening via social media and Google Hangouts.

For Digital Citizenship Practice
I have an on-going collaboration with the teacher of our school's Digital Literacy course. Together we have launched a class Twitter account that the students use to post reflections on lessons and units and provide insights and guidance about good habits of online conduct. To launch this account we had students use Canva to design channel art. We loaded each of their submissions into a Google Form which we pushed to them in Classroom. Students then voted for their favorite design and that was uploaded to Twitter. Then I taught a brief lesson on Hashtags & the Anatomy of a Tweet. The conclusion of the lesson was each student drafting what the first class tweet should be. Again, we shared the submissions with the class and they chose which would be used as our introduction to the Twitterverse.

Social Media Think Tank for your students is another way to engage them with social media in the context of your course material; here is an elevator pitch you can use with your students.

And that's not all!
My interest in educational use of social media preceded my acceptance into the Innovator Program and new opportunities to continue my learning in this realm have emerged because of the connections I made there. Here are some of the other irons I have in the fire at the moment:

At ISTE18 I will be co-presenting on using social media in the college search and application processes. From building a brand to researching schools to writing the college essay, there are so many ways students can powerfully use social media.

Public libraries in my area are interested in hosting seminars about media savvy and I have a couple happening this month.

My book is about to be released! I co-authored News Literacy: the keys to combating fake news with my friend and fellow librarian, Michelle Luhtala. It will hit the stands in May 2018! I am very excited about the companion video workshops that are being released in conjunction with the book. Those lessons include outreach into social media communities so that the learning is ongoing.