Small Deliberate Steps

This blog goes over #COETAIL13 Week 5 readings which centered on the following questions

  • How do we thrive in a participatory culture?
  • How do we teach (and learn) empathy?
  • How can we empower students and other stakeholders to use technology to positively impact the world?

The blog tends to cover more of the first and last question.  For content more related to the idea of empathy, I suggest my previous posts The Importance of Staying Positive and Think Twice Before Posting.

Small, deliberate actions can have a positive impact.

I feel this list of Powerful Technologies, Powerful Youth  needs to become standard reading/viewing in my classroom for students.  Looking at just the small list of stories of youth who were able to do incredible things to add voices and ideas to the online world thanks to technology has the impact to spark creativity and hopefully plant the seed for students to understand the contributions they have. What I really liked about it was the niche areas they mostly served but still had an impact. Helping students dive deep to geek out and mess around on one thing they are truly passionate about can spawn a litany of learning situations for them.

If this weeks  ISTE Standards for Educators is ‘3.a. Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behaviour online that build relationships and community‘, then part of the need in creating the experience is giving them the confidence they can do it. I wrote before in previous posts, Learning Not to Lurk and Scared of Learning, about the importance of building confidence before someone posts and the fear of feeling stupid when learning something new. Yet the idea of having students looking at topic that they can have a passion about and make contributions would help lesson some of these fears as it is a topic they already know well.

What stands out to me about the list of powerful youth is that they are ‘small, deliberate actions‘. Scott McLeod’s (@mcleod) TedEx video on Extracurricular Empowerment highlighted how taking a photo of school lunches and rating them, include amount of human hair found, was enough to lead to a conversation about school lunches in her area.

Linking it back to my recent experience, I recently co-ran a week long IDU on Social Justice with a group of Grade 9 students. While hard to complete or give justice to such a topic in one week, what struck me was the difficulty students had in identifying HOW they could make an impact in their area. They all were aware of big overarching problems but had trouble brining it back to them and how they could make an impact. Many acknowledged that social norms around racism and sexism needs to be addressed head one, or that we need to stop using plastic

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

to help the environment. But they could not think of actions they could take to make a difference. To me, it speaks to a need to relate ideas back to the students reality each day to build those connections. Then, any tasks should be about looking at those connections and showing students how they can have an impact.

In thinking how I could work towards this, my thought is not to have one lesson dedicated to looking at the list compiled by McLeod, but rather taking some time each week to highlight different actions and ask how we could do something similar. In essence, I want to take small deliberate steps to show my students how to take small deliberate steps to make positive changes and contributions.

Responsible User Agreements- I Never Knew I Had it So Good

My first teaching job was in a small school in China. I had my own laptop and a small printer at my desk. I had a big smart board , though all it could do was present and there was no pen to write on it, at the front and two big whiteboard. My students did not have laptops for school. In hindsight, they all had smart phones and I could have utilized those for a variety of activities but at the time I was a bit oblivious to the different technologies out there. This is all to say we did not need a Responsible User Agreement (RUA).

Fast forward to my current school. I have mentioned this in previous posts, but the head of my schools educational technology is a former COETAILer (@Holtspeak). The more I go through the course and think about conversations I have had with him or our school policies, the more I understand the reasoning behind it. The RUA for our schools is no different as it focuses on how students participate, namely that they participate Respectfully, Safely, Honestly, and Responsibly. Looking at the list McLeod compiled of different RUA to help question if they are inspiring student empowerment, I feel that I never knew how good our RUA was until comparing it to others. That it focuses on how students will participate means that it has built into it an assumption that students will participate. My favorite line  is from the section on Responsibility: “I create positivity”. Having that set as a responsibility for students sets up a host of behaviours that will lead to positive contributions and build more small, deliberate actions that can have a positive impact.

How do we train the trainers?

Each week, the readings by Jenkins always cause me to pause and think. What I look at objectively as an hour of reading usually takes longer as I end up going off in thought, sometimes reading the same section a few times to let the words soak in. This week was no different and a thought that has come up a fair amount was raised again. I feel it is important for you as the reader to understand what influenced my mind-frame, so for that reason I am sharing this passage from his work:

Much of the resistance to media literacy training springs from the sense that the school day is bursting at its seams, that we cannot cram in any new tasks without the instructional system breaking down altogether. For that reason, we do not want to see media literacy treated as an add-on subject. Rather, we should view its introduction as a paradigm shift, one that, like multiculturalism or globalization, reshapes how we teach every existing subject. Media change is affecting every aspect of our contemporary experience, and as a consequence, every school discipline needs to take responsibility for helping students to master the skills and knowledge they need to function in a hypermediated environment.” (page 57)


To me, this is a great summation of the overall idea of the course to this point. However, while we can change how we teach to include media literacy or rather center around it, the question to me is where do we find time to train the teachers to make this shift?  If we agree that we can not just tell a student to do a blog, create a website, or do ‘technology’ without first exploring it with the, then we need to find time to train teachers to do this. If we accept that it is a paradigm shift in how we teach our subjects, or to consider moving away from the notion of a separate subject, then concerted effort is needed for schools or districts to allow for more development in this. A thought out and gradual process is needed to implement these changes over several years. Unit plans need to be rethought, teachers need to be trained, and the ideas and skills need to be introduced at a young age and developed slowly. I would venture a guess that many school are already looking for ways to cram in time for different activities and projects. That PD days are already accounted for. Instead, perhaps the best way forward is to take small, deliberate steps.

Question for the reader- How has your school worked to support teachers in gaining new understandings of media literacy?

Hesitancy with Sharing

As part of the GET I was looking at Blogging this week and other ways of sharing student work. Within it was a video outlining how teachers use blogs themselves or with their students. I am thinking about one section where a teacher shares videos of her students presentations on her blog for their families and others to see. My initial reaction is that those videos are really property of the student and should not be shared for all to see. But then thinking about it more, if students knew the video would be shared for others it could increase their buy-in. However, there are clearly some privacy issues.

Question for the reader- how do you feel about teachers sharing images or videos of students in the classroom on social media?

What steps need to be taken ahead of time so that it can be done authentically?

  1. Lana
  2. Coleton Tillett
  3. Diana Beabout

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