Edutopia Webinar: Engaging the Digital Generation
Insights from Kids, Teachers, and Parents
Release Date: 6/4/09
June 4, 2009: "Engaging the Digital Generation: Insights from Kids, Teachers, and Parents"
Host: Amy Erin Borovoy, video programming producer, Edutopia
Presenters: Nichole Pinkard, Founder, Digital Youth Network and director of Innovation, University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute and Vicki Davis, Teacher, blogger, and IT director at Westwood Schools
Today's students use digital media in ways hardly imaginable just a few years ago, revolutionizing how kids create, collaborate, and teach one another. Join us for a stimulating discussion with innovative educators, parents, and students from the Digital Generation Project as they share practical tools and strategies for engaging the digital learner.
Learn more at the webinar's resource page.
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Amy: Welcome to edutopia's Summer 2009 Webinar. We're glad to have so many members joining us today. I'm Amy Erin Borovoy, Coordinating Video Producer, for Edutopia, and I'll be your host today. We're pleased to bring you the latest in our professional development webinar series, hosted exclusively for our members. These interactive events are designed to connect our members with leaders in educational reform. And they'll allow you to directly ask questions and learn from each other and experts in the field. Before we get started, I have just a few housekeeping items. First off, if anyone is having trouble logging into this webinar, please call 1-800-263-6317. Second, our presentation will be followed by a brief Q&A session. As a guest, you will be muted throughout the webinar, but we want to hear from you and we encourage you to submit questions. The best way to do this is to go to the discussion page at edutopia.org/webinar-discussion-june-2009. the URL is also posted right here. You can go ahead and post your questions on that post discussion page. As a best practice, please include your name, title and location, along with your questions. And since we have four great presenters today, if you can please also indicate which presenter your question is for, that will help us sort them. We'll answer as many questions as we can during the time we have, and our panelists will be checking the discussion page and answering questions during and after the webinar. We'll also be Tweeting during this event through hashtag edutopiadg on Twitter. The last piece of housekeeping here is that this webinar is 75 minutes long today, and it is being recorded. And the recording will be made available to you shortly after the event. So let's go ahead and get started.
Amy: Today's kids are born digital into a media-rich networked world of infinite possibilities. But their digital lifestyle is about more than just cool gadgets. It's about engagement, self-directed learning, creativity and empowerment. Edutopia has just launched the Digital Generation Project at edutopia.org/digital-generation to tell their stories, so that educators and parents can understand how kids learn, communicate and socialize in very different ways than any previous generation. So what I'd like to do now is just give you a quick look at the Digital Generation website. It's on edutopia.org right here, and I encourage you to explore it more deeply after the webinar. So this the home page of the Digital Generation Project. You'll find ten profiles of digital youths that we've produced here. These are really great kids that are doing some really exciting work. And you can explore pretty deeply their lives and the kind of work that they're doing and programs that they're in. They're from all around the country. And we also have an educator resource page here that's got all kinds of resources. We have links to outside resources here. We have interviews with experts. We have comments from readers. And we have a similar page for parents. So we've also got a parent resource page here that's got all kinds of great information for parents. And one of the things I'm really excited about is that we also have a share page here, so we provide a list of ways that you can take this information and share it with others in your community and spread the word and get the discussions going. So we're really excited about this project. And we've launched all this just about a week ago. And we're already getting great feedback on Twitter from hashtag Edutopiadg. And in the blogosphere, and in the comments on the edutopia website. So we're hoping that you're going to join the discussion too. Our presenters today are part of the Digital Generation Project.
We're delighted to have Digital Youth Network Founder, Nichole Pinkard, accompanied by parent, Scoop Jackson; and technology teacher and blogger, Vicki Davis, accompanied by her student, Virginia. Following this webinar, we'll be continuing this conversation on the discussion page on edutopia.org. So our first speaker today is the Founder of the Digital Youth Network at iRemix.org. And she's also the Director of Innovation for the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute, working to create optimal learning environments that span school, home and community. It's my pleasure to introduce Nichole Pinkard.
Nichole: Hello. See, making sure I'm-- hello, everyone. As she said, my name is Nichole. And I'm here to talk to you today about how we can prepare youth to become productive and engaged citizens. And it's important that I want to speak briefly about that title, and that the title of this talk is not "How to Prepare Youth to Become Great Users of Technology." Because the premise of the work that we've been doing for the last ten years is that if we look at today's sixth-grader, when they walk across the stage in 2015 and they're graduating from high school, we have to ask ourselves, "Are they prepared to be a productive and engaged citizen?" And we believe that in order to do that, they are going to have to become very fluid in the use of technology.
So our job, from the time they're born, until the time that they walk across that stage, is to help them learn how to use technology effectively. But one of the problems we have is that each of us, when we were taught, the predominant ways in which we were taught was probably through the use of text and through the use of oral language. Think about how many times you are asked to create a movie, create a game, or to learn through a simulation. For in our generation, that wasn't the case. But just since 1991, these are all the different types of technologies that have been created. You've had the internet, you've had smart phones, Google, the iPhone, Second Life, Facebook, YouTube, and just recently the introduction of WiMax, which is broadband access for a whole city. So now, it is possible coming to your community near you, there will be the ability for you to sit down over a dinner, engaging your kid with some very rich media. So all of this means that what it means to teach, and what it means to learn is changing. And we have to think about how do we change our approaches. So while text and print are still going to be the predominant ways in which kids are learning, and probably we're teaching, gone are the days when if you can't learn through graphics, through video, through movies, through simulations and through games; gone are the days when that being able to represent your ideas and to understand and to learn through those, if you don't have those sets of literacies in the future, I would argue that there might-- the question might be raised of, "Are you literate?"
So our work has been really focused on trying to understand how to develop all these sets of literacies for our kids. And so what that means from a school standpoint is first realizing that the school, while there still might be the center, the school is only a node in the student's learning portfolio. And kids, as they always have, have been learning outside of school in their organizations, such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and their youth leagues. But now kids are learning content through online sources in so many different ways. And one of our challenges is to figure out how we can take that learning and connect it back into, and connect it to the learning that we want to take place in schools. And second, which I think is really exciting, and I know Vickie's going to talk more about this, is that the learning opportunities today are no longer geographically bounded. Today, a kid regardless of where they live can have research collaboration with another kid or an adult who lives half-way around the country.
So if we take these two assertions as true, we have to ask ourself, "What is it that we do?" And these are some of the questions we should be asking. "What should kids learn? How should kids learn?" And actually, let me change it away from kids and say, "What should we all learn? How should we all learn? Where should learning take place? And how should we demonstrate what we have learned?" And again, "Who are our learning partners?" Our work on the Southside of Chicago has started with the-- has taken on the challenge of assuring that all of the kids who are with us, primarily, I'll say we're focusing on the middle school grades, sixth, seventh and eighth grade. By the time they leave us, they have the ability to fluidly represent their ideas visually, musically, procedurally, and cinematic. So one of the questions is, "What does that mean?" This means that all of our kids have the ability to create public service announcements, documentaries, short documentary, short films, video podcasts, music videos. Graphically, they can represent their ideas through the creation of posters, CD covers, magazine layouts. So a kid might create a comic book that represents their understanding of a book that they were reading in class. Kids are understanding how to do soundtracks, how to create mixes of songs that also represent their understanding of what they're reading. They're learning how to create games and play games. We use SimCity, where kids are learning how to use SimCity to understand neighborhoods. And they're taking text, which is a traditional form of literacy, and figuring out how to remix it a little bit by thinking about the creation of song lyrics, creating blogs and journals that are now on display for a larger audience.
To do this, to do this work, and enable kids to possess all of these literacies, one of the first-- I guess, the major obstacle we had to address, as most of you know, is dealing with the issue of, "Well, we are limited. Our time is limited in the school day." And if we're going to achieve these outcomes, we have to figure out ways to create a cocoon, a learning cocoon around kids. And for us, that has been thinking about how to create learning 24/7, and how to create learning opportunities for kids 24/7. And for us, that has been making the concerted effort to link our in-school learning with our out-of-school learning. And to create a special set of courses, which we call media art courses that develop students basic sets of literacies. And I think, really importantly, it removes the pressure from the core content teachers to develop kids' literacy skills. And one of the methods that we have used to connect these different learning experiences, the out-of-school, the in-school, and the after school, is the creation of a social network that we call Remix World, that enables kids to connect to their teachers, to their mentors and to each other 24/7.
So to go briefly into what we mean by Media Arts classes to give you some sense of what we do, in our middle school, all kids-- one of the things we realized, our work first started off by doing after school programming. And we had pretty good experiences there, but one of the things we realized in talking to our teachers is that if they wanted to use media in their instruction, they were running into the problem that maybe only three to four kids knew how to create a video, or three to four kids knew how to create a game. And that in order to use that particular media in their instruction, they were going to have to spend a lot of time doing the teaching of it, which was taking away from core content. So we decided to create a media arts sequence, where we would develop a base set of literacies for all the kids in the media arts program that teachers could then rely on.
And so how we do this is all of our sixth graders take a record label, a music label class, where the kids work together to first understand the music that they consume. And to, as we call it, a media diet, to learn to critique the music that they take in. Second, they work together to create a record label, where they have to write the songs, write the music, create the music videos, create the graphics-- and to put on a show, that for us, just happened two days ago-- put on a show for the whole community, all the fellow students, and their parents, that demonstrates their base set of literacies around the use of technology. In the seventh grade, we do a digital story-telling class, where the kids learn how to use storytelling techniques digitally to represent their understanding of the core books that they're reading in the school day. And then finally, in the eighth grade, our students spend half of the year developing a portfolio that reflects on their learning for the sixth and seventh grade, such that it can be used as a resource to get into schools. And then at the end of the year, they end up creating digital artifact that they sell as a product to raise money for their eighth-grade trip.
I've just spoken about our media arts program. But our original work started with our after school program. And as I said earlier, we want to develop kids' literacies in the verbal, visual, musical, cinematic and procedural areas. To do that, we had to create after school programming that mapped onto each of those areas. So in the after school, our kids have the ability to take a Spoken word and Hip-Hop Program. They can take a Graphic Design class, a Digital Video class, a Digital Music class. We do US verse robotics. We do Game Design. And we have a special program around Digital Queendom, which is designed to really address the issues that oftentimes keep girls from engaging in technology.
So as a teacher, you might ask, "So what does all of this look like? What does this mean for the teaching of my core subjects? How does this impact how kids are going to express their understanding of math, and science, and social studies?" And so what we've seen over the course of three years-- I want to say five years, but really three years where we've been doing intensive study and analysis-- that because our teachers now have the ability to trust that kids are coming in with a base set of digital literacy skills, that then now rethinking their instructional practices in the school day to allow kids to have multiple ways to represent their ideas.
So these are just an example of three ways in which our schools are making use of the technology. The first one is an example of how our science teacher has decided to use the program, "Stage Cast Creator," to have kids create games that demonstrated their understanding of global warming. And up at the top, this is just an example of a game, of "The Greenhouse Gas Game," where the character, if you can see it, the red and yellow character, had to escape the greenhouse gases that were coming at them. That was a project that all of our sixth graders participate in. In the eighth grade, as I said, we use SimCity. And one of the things we discovered living in Chicago, and now Chicago's trying to get the Olympics, and there's a lot of discussions about where the Olympics-- should the Olympics come, and what are the implications on the neighborhood, we realized that a lot of our kids didn't really have a core understanding of what makes neighborhoods work successfully, and what are the ingredients of a good neighborhood? Oftentimes you'll say, "Well, what would make your neighborhood a better place to live? And students would say, "Well, we need to add more trees." So we turned the use of SimCity, and also the "Future Cities Competition" to engage kids in really trying to explore what makes a city work by having to create a city, and using SimCity. And this has been a very productive project for us. And then the last one, which I think we've been iterating on for the last four years, is rethinking National History Fair. Normally, as Science Fair, National History Fair, a lot of kids do boards. We decided four years ago that all of our seventh and eighth grade students would do digital documentaries or digital stories. And that they would learn how to collaborate together to create their own documentaries that represent some aspect of what was going on in their communities. And so just this year, we had our History Fair, where we had over 50 documentaries created by sixth and seventh graders.
So it's important to say that this work did not develop overnight. And we didn't wake up one day and say, "Let's make all these transformations in the use of media, and it happened overnight. This has been a long journey over at least six to seven years, with first starting with the use of laptop carts. A lot of professional development, making teachers comfortable with the use of technology. And then building up their capacity, and also their engagement with the technology that then enabled us to move to a one-to-one laptop program. But I wanted to make sure to point out what I thought were some of the keys to enabling schools to integrate new media into core instruction. One is that I really think is essential, that if we're going to do this work, we have to remove the burdens from teachers of developing students' new media literacies. And that we can't expect, if we're going to use technology effectively in the classrooms that teachers have to carry the full burden.
I think ways we can do this is we can implement media art classes, and think about what are the partnerships we can have with the artists who are in our communities who are using these media on a daily basis. How do we create partnerships to allow them to come in and co-teach courses with us? How do we make use of online training resources for kids? Many of our kids-- and you're going to talk to one of the parents in a minute-- many of our kids have found their own online resources to develop their own sets of literacies. So how do we find the best of the breed and make them available for kids to have access during the school day and after the school day? Second, I think we need to really focus on supporting teachers and embedding new media into their instruction by integrating new media into whole school projects, such as Science Fairs and History Fairs. How do we create presentation spaces for kids to demonstrate their work? And what we have found is that when kids know that they have a real audience and that their work is going to be presented to others, they're much more likely to iterate over and over again on their project, and to think more carefully about what it is that they're creating. But in addition to these fairs, such as Science Fair and History Fair, I think it's important for us to think about new traditions. Such as the introduction of Film Festival and Maker Fairs, Game Design competitions, into the traditional fairs that we have in school that give kids new ways of demonstrating their understanding of core academic content, but through the use of these new media tools. So I'm really happy and fortunate to be able to provide another voice to this conversation.
And that is the voice of Scoop Jackson, who's the father of Jalen Jackson, who's one of the young people who have been chronicled in the Digital Generation work of edutopia. And Scoop, can you speak on what it means to be a parent of a kid in the digital generation?
Scoop: Yes, well, the thing that's made it kind of interesting in dealing with Jalen throughout this entire process is just using new media and different forms of communication to watch him grow as an individual, and you know, as parents, our main thing is to support that. And Nichole, we've been dealing with in your program for many years now. And just to see the different type of growth of him as, not only a student, but as a child of yours, in dealing with things that are new and going along with him. It's sparked a different sense of creativity that we, as parents, have had to basically just find the right way to sit back and watch, but also find the right balance of encouragement, so that he can grow in something that he has-- it seems like he has the natural interest in. And it's different. It is very different, and something unexpected, because as you said earlier, you know, as stated at the beginning of the webcast is that this is media-rich society in which we live in. And the one thing that can happen, because a lot of times there is money connected to the way we communicate in this media-rich society, an African-American child can be left out.
What we're seeing here is because of the engagement that has been established through the Digital Youth Network, is the involvement of the kids and the parents, and the sense of the feeling that they will not be left out of the general communication that goes on through our society. And my kid has been able to pick up on it. And as parents of a kid who's been able to pick up on it, and show a great sense of interest in it, we've been able to basically encourage him to continue that. And in the process of watching and encouraging him to continue that, we've seen interest sparked in his learning, and interest sparked in his ability to create.
One of the great things that we've also seen through this is that his mind goes beyond just trying to master certain things. And that's the beauty of what we're dealing with in new media. Especially, when you have a child that's involved in new media. He's not just happy with being able to conquer something, or being able to master something. Whether it's a game, or whether it's a lesson, or whether it's something he's trying to learn or study, he's just not happy with mastering that. Now he's looking at mastering it/conquering it, but also, "How can I continue to make this better with the skills that I've been gifted with, as far as my new media leaders is concerned?" What can I do to-- like say it's a game. Say it's something on the Wii system, or say there's a Playstation 3 game. Instead of just saying, "I'm going to be the best at this," his mind is now going to, "Well, what can I do to possibly enhance this game? What can I do to possibly enhance this project?" That translates to working in school. "All right, what can I do to increase this project to go from a B+ to an A? What can I do to make this better? How can I digitally make this better? How can I form a form of using technology to communicate my lesson and my thought process? How can I enhance this to make it better?" So all that is translated into him being an individual that now everything he does is about pushing to maximize something beyond his limits. Not just maximize it as far as how far he thinks he can learn it, or how good he can be at it. Now, "How can I maximize this beyond the limits that have already been set in front of me?"
Nichole: And Scoop, about what might be some of the challenges of raising a digital youth?
Scoop: That he thinks he knows everything. You can't tell him anything, because as parents, one of the things-- we are new media parents, too. But because you have a child that's been in the program, and has a great interest in new media, he's ahead of the curve on us. So I think Tracy and I-- my wife and I are pretty media savvy, we're pretty technologically savvy, but we're not at his level. And because he deals with it every day, and because it's a great interest to him, he knows that he could communicate on the level technologically that we can't. So trying to tell him certain things becomes difficult, because, "Mom and dad, you all don't know that yet. Mom and dad, you have to [inaudible]." Now as a 12-year-old child, of course, that's going to build into his ego. You know, but as parents, we have to try to keep that ego in check. But it's very difficult, because at the end of the day, after keeping his ego in check, we have to go behind closed doors and say, "Well, you know, he was right."
Nichole: Here's another question for you, Scoop. As a professional writer yourself, and there's always a lot of questions around the role of new media, and what does it mean? Is it impacting traditional forms of media? How do you think about Jalen as a literate kid, and how is new media impacting, increasing or limiting, or impacting in a negative sense how he's engaging traditional forms of literacy. I think it has the possibility of doing so. But even before he got into this, I stayed strong on making sure there was some type of foundation laid in that. As to me, in being involved in various forms of media, I still think there's something fundamentally that has to be done and understood by everyone. And that's that the story you tell, or that is being told is complete.
When Jalen started drawing and started telling stories through his art, before he transferred his art from sketching to computer graphics, I always made sure he understood that you have-- the most important thing that you're going to do is make sure that your story is strong. Always understand that your story is strong. And that went from me having him read comic books where the story is strong, to him watching everything from Tom and Jerry to Samurai Jack. And Samurai Jack is a cartoon, and sometimes it's very low as far as dialogue is concerned. But through that, I made him understand that, "Look, pay attention to the story they're telling. ’Cause anything you do, the foundation has to be the story that's being told." And even today, when he works on projects, that still has been instilled in his mind. ’Cause he'll come back and tell me, "Dad, I get it. I still have to tell the story."
The most important thing of what I do is not the way it necessarily looks, not the way, not the transition, not just how hot it is, the story has to be strong. The storytelling has to be strong. The message I'm trying to get across has to be strong. And what happens sometimes, because I believe things are advancing at such a fast rate that the stories are being lost. And I'm trying to make sure that my child understand that at the end of the day, it all gets down to that paper and that pen, and how you tell that story. Now you don't have to physically use a paper and a pen to tell the story, just because that's the way I was raised, but the fundamental foundation of that paper and pen and telling that story have to be contributed and instilled in what you are doing. So I've seen a lot of kids that are involved in this, and they are missing the storytelling part of the message that they need to get across in the new media that they're using to be creative. I, as a father, and as a writer professionally, have tried to continually tell him, so that he has a great understanding that at the end of the day, whatever you're doing, however advanced it is, you have to be able to tell a strong story. And one of the things that made it work so well was when we went to go see the movie "WALL-E." WALL-E, like Samurai Jack, had very little dialogue, but it was a movie that was rooted in a great story. And that was one of the things that he said to me after the movie, "See, dad? That's what you're talking about. I get it. I get it." And that's how you use new technology as far as film is concerned. But the story had to be written. And you know, I tried to make sure that he understands that at all times.
Amy: This is Amy jumping in here.
Nichole: Yes, finish. Mm hm, mm hm.
Amy: I just wanted to say we're really excited to talk to Scoop, and we have some other presenters that we'd love to move onto, but Scoop will be available to answer some questions at the post-discussion page once we're through. Okay, and we also wanted to let you know that definitely you can learn more about Scoop's son, Jalen, and his work at the Digital Generation Project website at edutopia.org/digital-generation. As well as we are continually adding new things to the site, and we will be posting a video about Nichole's project, "Digital Youth Network," or DYN, tomorrow. So please do keep checking back for new content. So all of you who are listening that have questions for Nichole and Scoop, please do submit them on the discussion page. That URL again is edutopia.org/webinar-discussion-June-2009. We are taking your questions, and we will be addressing some of them after the Q&A after this next two speakers.
Nichole: So I'm really excited to introduce our next speaker. She's a teacher, and the Information Technology Director at the Westwood Schools in Camilla, Georgia. She is co-creator of four global collaborative projects, including the award-winning "Flat Classroom Project." Vicki also blogs at the Cool Cat Teacher blog at coolcatteacher.blogspot.com. It's my pleasure to introduce Vicki Davis.
Vicki: Hello! It's such an honor to be here tonight. And I'd just like to say, Nichole, I've been such a fan of your work. Since about a year-and-a-half ago, we had you on the Women of Web 2.0 Show. And it's just so impressive where you've taken it. And Scoop, I'd just like to say, those in the room, you'd probably want to look up Scoop Jackson, if you haven't already heard of him. I'm just so impressed that you take your voice that you've given for sports-- and those of us who love sports so much know who you are. And you're also speaking out for excellence in education. I just think that that bodes very well for our country to have people like you who are willing to use your voice in this way. I'm an avid fan of edutopia, and watch their video podcasts on my iTouch, and it directly impacts what we do in our classroom, and with my three children. So it's just a delight to be here tonight.
In February, 2008, a Wall Street Journal article gave an overview of what is considered to be the best education system in the world as determined by the Paris-based OECD. They began in international student test in 2000. And they determined that Finland has the best education system in the world. I know some people are groaning and saying, "Oh, another test." But let's go here. The Finnish teachers are allowed to pick their own books and customize their lessons as they shape students to national standards. The head of the OECD said in most countries education feels like a car factory. "In Finland the teachers are entrepreneurs."
Today, we've been talking about how to connect today's Digital Generation. Something they're obviously doing well in places like Finland, in Nichole's schools that she works with, and pockets of excellence around the world, if you read books like Don Tap Scott's research in "Growing Up Digital," you'll see that today's students have this huge desire to customize everything they touch. I think this is why they respond so well to teachers who customize their classroom to the students and their interests. And I'd like to call this customization process, "Teacherpreneurship."
You know, right now, I think we have a huge technology misconception. Some people think that if they get an interactive whiteboard, boom, you'll have a better teacher. Or if every student can just have a laptop, pow, the learning is better. This thinking is wrong, and the reach is beginning to bear this out. It's not about the technology. We don't teach blogging, wikis, podcasting for their sake. But for what they let us do. It is about what technology lets us do to reach this generation. William Ward says, "Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning." And when you give students access to all these tools, you light the fire for learning. The power of technology is that it lets us unlock the potential of our students and create a rich environment where they can be taught and reached. I have three children, and two of my children have learning differences. I don't like to call them learning "disabilities," I like to call them learning differences. And I believe every student can learn. I like to ask schools if Helen Keller were in your school, what would she look like when she graduated? With technology, we can reach every student.
So my journey into Teacherpreneurship began in September, 2006, when my students were studying Thomas Freidman's book, "The World is Flat." And I blogged about some of the great things they were saying. Julie Lindsay at the International School in Dhaka, Bangladesh, read the post, and emailed me about having our students join together to study the trends and experience it. And then we progressed from there. Just as Nichole said in her discussion, it is a progression. It does not happen overnight. And I also love Nichole's term, "a base set of literacies." So here we go to look at my class framework, or my base set of literacies. This is sort of a turbo-tour of the technology tools I use to reach today's students. And you'll see a lot of similarities to what Nichole talked about and Scoop talked about and then my student, Virginia, here in just a moment. So again, once the students know these tools, I don't teach the tools again, but use them to instruct content of what I'm teaching. Now in eighth grade, our students start blogging in a private educational network, using the Ning platform. You'll notice I don't call it a social network, because I do not run a social network. I run a educational network, and it is an extension of my classroom. Ning allows me to build a website that looks and acts a lot like Facebook, but I can make it uniquely mine. It's free, and they have ad-free networks for K-12 teachers if your students are using it for classroom purpose. This is where my students-- just my students and I, they learn how to be safe. They learn how about copywrite. No, you can't just copy all the photos. You can't just take that from YouTube. And a proper internet etiquette. They also learn how to upload simple videos they made using their Logitech QuickCams in Windows Moviemaker.
So the thing you have to remember, this is Virginia's page on DigiTeen. And this is a public network. And one of the most important things is that every student must have their own unique ID and password. Now I know a lot of teachers that set up the IDs and logon for each individual computer. They're asking for disaster, because you can never track who did what. We must have students who are held accountable, and start them off in private, safe spaces. That's the secret to success. And when there are issues, just like we have two kids who bump up against each other in the hall, when you have students in online spaces, you will have issues. You handle it, and you handle it very quickly. And then you really eliminate your problems that you might have.
So what if you have younger students? How do you network them? Because Ning is typically for students 13 and up. Particularly if you're in the United States. For younger students, I like to use think.com, which was recommended to me by my friend, Cheryl Oakes in Wells, Maine. They have a one-to-one laptop program for all of their middle school students in Maine. They have a great profanity filter, and stringent checks. For you to participate, this is free. It is from Oracle. It's an excellent website, great place to start. And you can see that you can do polls and blogging and Post-It notes and that sort of thing. So the first area is the students learn how to blog and use our educational network. In ninth grade, the students learn how to use a wiki. Now wiki is the most famous wiki is Wikipedia. But a wiki is a website that lets every student edit and collaborate on a document that's very easy to edit. Now if you're looking for a pretty website, this isn't really the one. But I have a wiki-centered classroom, and every course has a start page on the wiki. It includes a Google calendar for the class shown here. I do all of the-- all of my class planning on Google calendar, which actually came from a friend fo mine, Doug Bellshaw in England. We do use other collaborative tools, like Google Docs, that the wiki is important, because it unlocks the door to global collaboration, and the Wikipedia model of editing. If you look at a lot of the things that are happening now, students need to know how to do that.
So the next thing is the Personal Learning Network, or PLN. The first week of school, the students in ninth grade learn how to set up an iGoogle page to create a customized webpage that pulls in their list, the class calendar, links to class websites, their email. And any wiki changes form the project they're working on at the time. Now it's personal, because in project-based learning, every student has a different role, and so their pages have to be different. This is powered by very important technology called RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. So for example, when I make a change to the class lesson plans on the Google Calendar, the changes are immediately sent to their iGoogle page automatically. All they have to do is hit "Refresh." Now if you want to know more about how this works, I wrote an article, "Building your Digital Locker," which is linked from the discussion page. I believe that building a PLN is one of the most essential skills for students, both at the K-12 level and the post-secondary level, and for teachers to know how to do. And there are other websites you can do this as well.
The other point I wanted to make, Nichole talked about 24/7. Well, here in rural Georgia, a lot of the students have dial-up. So the iGoogle page, we teach them how to use it interacting with their cell phone. I believe it's absolutely essential we learn to harness the power of the cell phone, which has more computing power than the computers that we were buying for schools in 1997. Now, after schools have started using the Ning, learning how to wiki, and build their PLN, you have to make sure they're proficient in creating audio and video artifacts. This is pretty much what Nichole has her students doing in sixth grade, and then seventh grade. In eighth grade, our students are students are introduced to rudimentary movie-making, using the Logitech QuickCams, and Windows Moviemaker, and basic storyboarding. In ninth grade, they build on moviemaking skills they learned in eighth, and they learn how to create audio files using Audacity and more advanced video creation using Pinnacle Studio. To teach storyboard inscripting, we use the curriculum from the American Film Institute, which is available for free from their website, along with some great videos. So now that you're overwhelmed, we'll breathe deeply, and we'll talk about this whole global connection thing. Nichole talked about having productive and engaged citizen. Students are the greatest textbook ever written for one another. It is vital that we connect them in positive ways, so that we can improve and enhance their world view before those are set, which typically happens about college.
So there is a simple five-phase progression for connecting your students with the whole world. The first thing that you should do is to connect the students within your own classroom, using cooperative learning, and collaborative tools like wikis, Ning, think.com. That is the first step. And a lot of schools are doing that pretty well. I would challenge you, though. Usually we seat the students next to each other. Once you start using the wiki, let them sit across the room from one another. Then, in Phase two, connect students between classes within your school or district. So if you teach three classes, and you're a teacher in the three same classes, you should have a team with three students, one in class number one, one in class number three, and one class number three. Let them work together on a project, while not being able to be in class at the same time. That's Phase two. And you can also do that at the district level, or within your association, if you're in a private school. Thirdly, you can progress to a managed global connection through sites like Iron, ePals, Taking IT Global, or sometimes just joining something like Classroom 2.0, the largest Ning for educators in the world. You'll meet others and you'll sort of create these. Eventually those students need to connect and work with one another. And this is where most schools stop short. In Phase 4, which is a lot like the "Flat Classroom Project," students work together, but still have their teachers as leaders. Now Julie Lindsay and I, the person who co-plans all these projects with me, put in a Phase five, which is a project we call the NetGenEd Project. We just finished up with Don Tapscot. This is where you have students on teams that are lead by student project managers. And literally, the teachers are collaborative coaches. So the students, my seniors that just graduated this year, a week ago, can literally say they have managed multi-national collaborative teams. And I think that's important to be able to do. Now some say that global collaboration is optional, but I'd like to point out that the isti.net standards say that students should collaborate publish and interact with peers, experts and other audiences. This is part of standards, and this is what we should do.
Now you'll see on your screen, we have a poll. We want to hear from you. This will become part of our archive. So looking at the five steps as we just shared, what is the highest level that your school or organization has collaborated. So please select one and click submit. So go ahead and do that, and while we leave the poll open just a couple more moments, I'd like to share a joke that was spreading like wildfire over Twitter, that really shows the pulse of society in this generation. This joke was told last night on the "Tonight Show" here in the US. Conan O'Brien said, "In the future, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will merge to form the mega-platform, YouTwitFace." And this, I have seen this joke literally at least 50 times on Twitter today. And it just shows this viral method of joke-telling and entertainment. Well, it's time for education to go viral. And it is. It's beginning to go viral now. So let's close our joke, go back to Amy, and Amy tell us the results that you've seen.
Amy: Well, it looks like we've got 42 percent of audience just collaborating within individual classrooms; 28 percent of our audience within the school or district only; 13 percent collaborating globally through managed projects; 12 percent-- pretty close there-- students collaborating with each other, with the teachers managing. And there are five percent of our listeners right now that are students collaborating in student-led groups, with the teacher as the coach.
Vicki: Wow. Excellent. And actually, my student Virginia did vote, so she would have been part of that five percent there. Last piece before we get ready for Virginia, that we've added this year are virtual worlds. And I could go on and on, but I'm not. Second Life is just one small piece here. This year, my students and I created two virtual islands using something called OpenSim on a website called Reaction Grid. Now OpenSim, you can download that for free, and set it up on a server at your school. And virtual world engage students at such a high level. So excited about their potential. And so this is something that we've added.
Now you'll notice, as Nichole said, "We evolved. We progressed." There's some things I'm working on this summer for the fall. Blogster using iTouches and that sort of thing. What we have to remember is that we teachers, we must learn from the students. There's an old Danish proverb that says, "He who is afraid to ask is ashamed of learning." We have, as teachers, must learn to ask our students, what works with you? What engages you? What can we do to learn this content? And make them part of it. Now, we have several projects. With these seven primary technology tools, we have several projects that you can look at in our discussion forum. The DigiTeen Project we use to teach digital citizenship. And Virginia here in a moment will talk about that. For our tenth grade and up, we have Flat Classroom. The NetGenEd Project that we did with Don Tapscot this year. And all of these projects are public and available for you to review. Anyone can submit to participate. We've had over 2,000 students in 20 countries.
And this year was so exciting. My school actually had a major in-school collaborative project that was multi-grade level, called the Flint River Project, where we pulled the students out of school, and they studied the Flint River, which is a local river here that's endangered. And it's at FlintRiver.ning.com. Now as some of you learned during Edutopia's last webinar with Dr. Judy Willis, which I would encourage you to review, every student learns differently. Our students are unique and multi-faceted, and they want to customize their learning environment. Now if we look at Gardener's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, we know that there are a variety of learning styles. I love how Nichole said, "Multiple ways of expressing ideas." That helps us tap into these different learning styles. Now you say, "How do I tie this in with technology?"
I just want to briefly show you two examples here. If you look at the Ning, or our social network, educational network, and this would be similar to what Nichole's doing. It can be used to address all types of learners by allowing multiple modes of expression. Writing, audio files, photography, video, the use of forums. Links to reading assignments. You can debate. But when you give students assignments and let them complete in the format that they feel comfortable, you can truly see what the student understands versus being limited by a student's ability to express themselves in that medium.
So what about elementary? This is one of my favorite tools for elementary, Voice Thread. It's a popular site for elementary students, and lets you post photographs, and have students either post a recording, or type text their responses. Students who cannot yet express themselves in written format, can use this site to record their thoughts, or even make an eFolio online. So remember, when you're working with technology, focus on what it lets you do, and make sure you're reaching all of the student learning styles.
Now I am so thrilled to introduce you to Virginia. She was profiled as a student on the Digital Youth Project; who also served as a Project Manager of the student team that taught Digital Citizenship to our fourth grade students here at Westwood on the DigiTeen project this year. I hope you'll take time to see her video on the Digital Youth website. Virginia?
Virginia: Hi, everyone! Earlier in the year, my teacher, Ms. Vicki assigned our class to do a wiki about digital citizenship. My topic was on one of the many aspects of digital citizenship, digital rights and responsibilities. And I wrote a wiki report with kids from around the world on this topic. The main objective of the project was to educate our class and the readers of our wiki on digital citizenship. But it led to the Action project. In our Action project, I got to teach the importance of digital citizenship and safety online. I taught this on a website called WoogiWorld. This was great for the fourth graders, because they didn't even realize they were learning. It was just like Webkinz, or another online gaming world, they were playing games. It also stressed importance of safety and literacy online. I realized that this way of teaching was the most effective on elementary children, but I also realized how naïve the younger end of the so-called digital generation really is. They had no idea of the predators and harmful people that would be online world like Webkinz and WoogiWorld. I think digital citizenship and safety should be taught, or should be a part of every child's education, and taught to all ages. You can check out our blog on DigiTeenDreamTeam.blogspot.com to read more on this subject.
Vicki: Thank you, Virginia.
Amy: Great, thank you so much, Virginia, for brining student perspective to our webinar. And Vicki, that was great to have a window into your classroom. And you can learn a lot more about both Vicki and Virginia, and the nine other Digital Youth, and a bunch of other great programs at the Digital Generation Project website, edutopia.org/digital-generation. So we have got some great questions from our audience. So we'd like to jump right into the Q&A at this point. We'll answer as many questions as we can. I think we have about-- well, about 20 minutes left. And that's great, so we'll get to as many questions as we can. So if you'd like to keep submitting your questions at the webinar discussion page at edutopia.org/webinar-discussion-june-2009. So first question I have here is from Darlise Montero. And this is a great question, I think, for anyone who would like to answer it. How do you engage these digital age students in a one- or two-computer classroom? So for those of you that don't have one-to-one programs, how do you engage kids when you just have one or two computers? I don't know who would like to take that? Vicki, why don't you go ahead and take that one?
Vicki: This is Vicki. And we, you know, I teach in a computer lab, but our teachers, most of them, have one or maybe two computers in their classroom. And so what we do is once a skill is taught, for example, PowerPoint, or making a movie, or a flash animation, or once the students know how to do that, what the other teachers will do is make an assignment something like this. Our AP literature teacher gave an assignment not too long ago, and said, "Using the multimedia artifact of your choice, review your assigned piece of literature for the class." And they were reviewing for the AP exam. Well, one student made a Macromedia Flash. Another student had a self-running PowerPoint, but he actually played guitar and sang to the PowerPoint. And we got all different types of expression. And I think it's important to give students the opportunities to express in those ways, but also, as Nichole said, "To really not require those teachers to teach actual moviemaking." I mean teaching moviemaking when you have two computers, to me, is really counterproductive. We prefer to do that sort of thing in a lab environment. And so you sort of build into curriculum, "Okay, by third grade, the students should know how to do this little technology. By fourth grade, they should know how to do that." Now, it's tough when you have students transfer in, and we see that quite a bit here. But what typically happens is the other students will help the students who do transfer in. We'll sort of have a buddy system, and do it that way. But it can be done, but you sort of have to have an agreement, and work with the curriculum director, and the IT director, to understand, okay, what has been taught at this level, and then make assignments that are appropriate, and then schedule lab time. You can also, you know, give two to three weeks for an assignment, and then come up with a rotation schedule to rotate the students through the computer. So there's multiple ways to do that.
Amy: Great, thank you, Vicki. I have another question. This one's for Nichole, from Michelle Sharett. How do you get teachers to want to use technology in the classroom? There seems to be a lot of resistance to this. Teachers are used to their teaching styles, and don't always easily adapt.
Nichole: Well, I think part of the challenge to getting teachers to use technology has been that we've asked teachers to both integrate it and teach kids how to use it. And I think some of the work that's come out of the Common Sense Media, some of their surveys have shown, that teachers are very willing to engage technology, and to use it. As long as it's not placing such a burden on them that is conflicting with their needs to do the core content instruction. So I'm saying the way you do that is providing supports and partnerships with them that help develop the kids' technical ability to use the technology, outside of the traditional core content, and thus, the core content teachers can focus much more on how those new media tools can be used to represent students' understanding of what they're learning in the classes.
Amy: Great, thank you. This one is for anyone who would like to answer it. And it's from Jenna McWilliams. She would love to hear any or all of you speak about the role of assessment in your vision for integrating new media literacies in formal learning environments.
Nichole: I can speak to that a little bit. I think there's two forms of assessment. One is there has to be a way if you're asking kids to create new media artifacts to represent their understanding the core content. Here has to be rubrics, ways of supporting teachers and students themselves in assessing the quality of what it is that they've created. A way to look beyond the glitter of a kid has created a video, or they've created a game. To get to the issue of, "Does this game represent," for the instance for our example, "Does this game represent some core understanding of global warming?" So I think there are a set of rubrics that exist, that people are beginning to create, but I think there's a need for the creation of a community around developing some shared rubrics and assessment instruments. I know Vicki has to have a lot of those, and we have some. And so we need places where we can make those rubrics available to teachers, such that you can take them and adapt them for your classroom. We should try to get away from everyone having to create their-- create from scratch.
Amy: Great, thank you. This next question is fro Vicki, and it's from Karen North. She asks, "How many students do you teach every day? What are your other responsibilities besides working on virtual learning directly related to students? Where do you find the time?"
Vicki: We're a very small school, K-12, 364 students. I have approximately 90 students this year. I've been teaching seven years, so I've had up to 110. Typically, we'll teach five to six periods a day. We have seven periods, so I have a homeroom. IT director, I have to fix all of the computers at the school. And I could go on and on. But I think the point is here about so many-- you know, it's not about making excuses. Everybody, everybody can make an excuse. It's about doing what you have with what you have where you can. And you know, my greatest dream came true this year. Our strategy here has been to empower the power teachers. The ones who really want the technology, and help them and encourage them. When they ask for it, we try to do everything we can to give it to them. But this year, with the Flint River Project, our curriculum director said we will have a Ning as part of the project. And all of our staff will blog. And every teacher in the whole high school used that Ning and blogged. And it was kind of scary for them. And some of the literally did not want me to help them get started, because of the fear of technology. But they helped each other. And the students helped them. And it was absolutely amazing what happened. It does happen, transformation does happen. But I'll tell you where it does not happen. It does not happen where you have people who whine and complain and say, "It can't be done." Because you just have to sit down and do what you can where you can with what you have.
Amy: Great, thank you. This next question is for Nichole, I think. Spencer Lloyd asks or says, "I love what you're talking about and would like to integrate something like this in my school. However, who funds this?"
Nichole: So I think there's two questions about the funding. One is "Who funds the creation of the materials. And who funds the implementation?" We've been fortunate to get funding from MacArthur Foundation, both to implement the work we do, and to create the materials. All of our materials are available free at iRemix.org. iRemix.org. Our curriculum materials are all available. So we were funded to develop this work so that others can use it. Now, funding the courses, because in the school day, we teach media art courses, and we use artists who come in, we're discovering that actually is in some degree a little cheaper to use-- to develop collaborations with artists in the communities to come in and teach those classes. So it's not more expensive, necessarily, to the school. And each community works differently in terms of how ou can develop partnerships with artists. Second, the after school program, we've had some support. We're beginning to look at the methods to have parents support that also. So we're trying to develop models to make this work self-sustaining. Because we know every school who wants to implement this can't go to a foundation and receive the money. So in this upcoming year, we're going to implement in two schools where the cost of doing the program fully comes out of their per pupil. But from our understandings from the teachers and from the directors of those schools, our cost structures are structures that they can implement. But again, all the materials are available free at iRemix.org.
Vicki: Talking about funding, this is Vicki again. You know, here, we're kind of the opposite end of the spectrum. Yes, we've written grants, and that sort of thing, but we've had to do a lot of fundraising. And raise money. And we have a budget of-- this year they raised it to $25,000 a year to maintain all computers and not to really purchase any new ones. And so, when we need computers, we literally have to raise the money. And yes, it's tough. But there are places out there you're going to have to work if this is something you want to do. Now I do know that quite a few schools are in the process of receiving some stimulus money that they will be earmarking for certain things. And it's a great opportunity, and hats off to those who have this opportunity; use it well, and use it wisely. Because if you don't involve your teachers in the process of deciding what technology to use in their classroom, then you may hand the teachers something that their comfort level is not there with. It is so important to not only engage students, but to engage teachers in that customization process of customizing their classroom. And I know a lot of teachers that when given the choice of what to use, they choose a document camera. And some may make fun of that, but a well-used document camera is a great thing in the classroom. Nichole?
Nichole: I want to add one more point. We have a one-to-one program; every kid has a laptop in our school. And most people believe think that that work is supported by foundations. But our parents-- and if Scoop is on the phone, he can attest to this-- our laptop program is funded by our parents. We charge a $300-a-year laptop fee. And many of you might think, "Wow, that's a lot! How can you do it?" But we're working with a population that's 100 percent African-American and 80 percent low income. But it starts with building the trust relationships with the parents. And believing that that investment is a worthwhile investment to make for their kids. And I just wanted to say that, because oftentimes there is a large financial investment that's necessary. But I think there are ways, creative ways to make sure that this can be done in collaborations with parents.
Amy: Great. I have a question that either of you could answer. If Scoop is on the line, it'd be a great one for him, from Suzanne Falzone, "How do parents keep their children safe in the world of new media?" You want to go for that?
Nichole: I will. I was just waiting to see if Scoop was. Well, one of the things we've done-- and I think Vicki can definitely talk about this, also-- is that we first started with the assumption that we have to teach kids how to be respectful and responsible, and to learn how to keep themselves safe also. So one thing you could do with parents is hold a lot of meetings. Put the technology that the kids are using in their hands. But also, you have to teach kids how to be responsible, and you have to also create opportunities for them. Safe opportunities for them to fail and understand the lessons learned. So for example, we use social networks, but we've created a private social network within our school, where kids are learning how to communicate, and how to represent themselves on a social network that we hope will translate when they go, when they begin to make use of other social networks. So I think one of the important issues is to not run away from the technologies, but to figure out how to create safe spaces for students to learn how to use them. And also to make sure that you're creating a partnership with the parents, so that they know, and that they understand all the ins and outs of the technologies that are going to be placed in their kids' hands.
Amy: Great, we have about five more minutes for questions, just to give a heads-up. I have two related questions for Vicki next about assessment. One is from Lorraine Leo, who comments that she really likes all of these projects, and wants to know if you use a rubric to assess the students. And then also I have a related question from Lisa Silmser of Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, who asks, "How do you balance the time and effort needed to use media and technologies against judging content knowledge? Do you have enough time to allow for the learning curve that is required of, for example, filmmaking? Do your assessments address both the media and content knowledge elements?"
Vicki: Those are great questions. I do use rubrics. Sometimes we'll start off RubiStar for some of just the basic beginning, which is a free website that you can go and generate rubrics. If you go to any of the projects, the links are on the discussion forum. DigiTeen, and the "Flat Classroom Project," Horizon Project, NetGenEd Project-- those are all rubrics that the teachers developed together along with some experts at the college level who've helped us. The goal there is to promote higher order thinking skills. It evolves typically every year, but yes, we use rubrics. I believe that when you start a project, you should hand the rubrics out. Students should know how they're going to be assessed. They should know it upfront. It should not be a mystery. When you assess them, you should fill out the rubric and hand it back. I don't fill out the rubrics online, because I want it to be private between the student and I. They need to know that if they have taken two weeks to do a major project, or in the case of most of our projects, one to three days, that you need to be taking a significant amount of time to assess that. And it does take quite a bit of time. And so hopefully that assess-- that answers Lorraine's question. But we do share all of our rubrics for all for the projects there.
Lisa from Saint Paul, you know, balancing the time and effort for the technology and the content knowledge, you know, my courses are technology-related courses. So technology is somewhat part of the content. However, you know, higher order thinking skills, making sure that the students are solving problems and it's just kind of a different focus. I do have quite a bit of content. But interestingly, I survey the students on the last day of class every year, and I ask them the things that they learned the most from, and the things that they learned the least from in the year. And every single student said that they learned less from their book, than they learned from the projects we did in the hands-on activities we did. Because when they were in the book, they were just memorizing and forgetting. But when they were hands-on, they were actually learning it, and they'll never forget it. So content is essential. And I do have, especially in Introduction to Computer Science, which is the same as Computer Science 1100 taught at the University of Georgia, we use their same textbook. I do have quite a bit of content to cover, and it is a constant juggling match there. The curriculum director will come in and see what I've done, see the tests I've given, see the scores and that sort of thing to see how I'm doing. I'm just like every other teacher has. I will tell you that I have seen some teachers so heavily integrate technology to the fault of the content. You have to continually ask yourself, "Okay, is it becoming about the technology?" Because it's not about the technology. It's about what the technology lets you do. It's about the content, what you're trying to teach, but making it more engaging for this Digital Generation.
Amy: Fantastic! We've got other great questions, but I think we're getting pretty close to wrapping up here. So I wanted to thank everyone for your great questions. And if your question did not get answered, or if you'd like to hear more and discuss more, please do go to our discussion page at edutopia.org/webinar-discussion-June-2009, where Vicki and Nichole will be continuing this conversation live for the next 30 minutes or so. And if you can go ahead and direct your question to which of the two of them you'd like to hear from when you comment there, that would be really helpful. There's also an additional list of resources and links that were mentioned in the presentations on the discussion page. So if you go to that discussion page, you'll find all kinds of resources there that will be helpful. And then, of course, you can explore the subject further on the Digital Youth Generation Project website at edutopia.org/digital-generation, which you can also access from the edutopia homepage. And then here's some information for getting in touch with Nichole Pinkard and Vicki Davis. And then there, once again, is the URL to continue the discussion. I would really like to thank Nichole and Vicki and Scoop and Virginia for their time and their insight on this valuable topic. That was a great discussion. And all of us here at edutopia thank you, our members, for participating today.
Your attendance and input is vital, and we so appreciate your support. I have just a few reminders before you leave. Please do give us your feedback. After the webinar, you'll receive an email that directs you to a brief survey. Please take a moment to fill it out. And our next members only webinar will be August on Education Grant Writing. And we'll send out an email announcement with more information. You can check our webinar page at edutopia.org/webinars. And finally, if you have friends or colleagues whom you think would like to be a part of these webinars, and of edutopia, please do direct them to our membership page at edutopia.org/join. Finally the Digital Generation Project is produces with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, so we'd like to give a thank you to them as well. Thanks for participating. Thanks for supporting edutopia. And please go get involved in the discussions at the Digital Generation Project page. Thank you.
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