Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why I HATE anonymous user names

As an educator I teach my students that they can make a difference in the world, and as a tech integration consultant I promote social media as a means of doing so. Recently, however, a dear family friend has been experiencing the down side of social media, and her "haters" illustrate perfectly why digital citizenship is so important, why we need to start teaching our kids early how to interact in a public (virtual or otherwise) forum, and why it is SO IMPORTANT to extend our outreach to parents and community members.
Let me start at the beginning:
A little over a year ago, I contacted Mindi, founder of the blog Bailing Out Benji, to speak with a class of my students about puppy mills, her blog, and rescue animals, after she helped my sister find a rescue dog. She shared about how she started her journey as an animal rights advocate, and how she used her blog and Facebook page to help educate people about puppy mills. 
Last Christmas we adopted a second rescue puppy when my other sister saw that BOB (Bailing Out Benji) was hosting a virtual event called “Home for the Howl-idays” to promote getting shelter dogs and cats into their forever homes (all while going through the shelter application background checks and paperwork) for Christmas. 
Finally, this spring I was able to take my two oldest children (8 and 5) to join my sisters and our rescue dogs to Iowa State University where other BOB members were holding an awareness event for college students during finals week. 
I am proud to say that BOB is educating my students and my children, as well as myself, about the reality of puppy mills, but also about the impact an individual or small group can make when they have the right tools at their finger tips. Mindi's work has grown from one individual's passion into a thriving group that raises money to support rescue work, educate the public, and raise awareness about puppy mills in Iowa and around the United States.
Fast forward to today. Iowa news stations have been picking up more and more stories about puppy mills thanks to the work of Bailing Out Benji and other awesome rescue workers and volunteers. Along with these stories, we also find the comment section, where people insert some sort of anonymous user name and have the freedom to say whatever they want; true or not, appropriate or not, civil or not.

What frustrates me about these comments on a WHO news story is not that these people have opinions that are blatantly rude (and since I know Mindi personally, I can tell you are also HUGELY false), but that they can hide behind anonymous pseudonyms, spouting whatever they damn well please. You shouldn't be able to anonymously imply that someone is dishonest, a thief, or a liar. You shouldn't be able to anonymously threaten people or make libelous statements. You can, and we all love free speech, but it sucks, and it sends the wrong message.
I wish these people had the opportunity to take a class with me on digital citizenship and how to behave in a public forum, because this behavior could definitely go on my list of “non-examples”.
Why does civility go out the window once people sit behind a computer screen? How am I supposed to teach my students that this isn't okay, when their parents, older siblings, neighbors, etc. are modeling this petty, disgusting behavior? How do we tell kids that cyber-bullying is wrong when these comments are some of the more tame remarks (and sometimes threats) that we see in public forums? 
Am I a little biased because I know the person being attacked? Maybe. But rather than "biased," I would say "more informed" - I know these things are untrue, and I know the horrible things being said about her are not only untrue, but incredibly hurtful to a very sweet individual. This is just one small example of the hundreds of comment forums just like this that are filled each day with hate and name-calling. 
This makes my drive to grow digital citizenship education that much stronger. Please join me in educating not only our youth, but our communities in what exactly it means to be not just a good DIGITAL citizen, but a good citizen - period. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

LPK Model for Close Reading

Several years ago I worked on a strategy for my students to use when reading articles, journals, primary sources, etc. I had completely forgotten about it until today, when I was teaching a class on the Rule of Law and using the C3 Framework as a means for discussing lesson design. One of the really important concepts we discussed was close reading, and as we were sharing the tools we have successfully used in our own classrooms, I remembered my own strategy. It's one that I developed and piloted with my students, and then I lost in the chaos of daily life in the last two years. I'm disappointed in myself for not making it more of a priority and using it to help more students understand their reading, but I'm ready to pull it off the shelf, dust it off, and share it with you. Feedback and thoughts on how to #makeitbetter are, as always, greatly appreciated. If you are able to use it, I'd love to hear how it went with your students. 

LPK Model for Close Reading

Underline the title
  • Look at the title and headings. Predict what the article is about

Identify the goal
  • Why are you reading this piece?
  • What do you hope/need to accomplish by reading the article? 
  • Are there discussion questions?              
  • Will you be taking a quiz?

  • Skim the article - Which words do you need to look up? 
  • Can you infer their meaning from the reading?

Relate to your life/Make connections
  • What similar experiences have you had? 
  • Are there other things you have read/learned about that are similar or remind you of this topic/situation?
  • Who could you ask about the topic that might be able to help you to gain a different perspective?

Summarize the article
  • Who/what was it about? 
  • What is the main idea?
  • What is the purpose of the reading? 
  • What happened in the reading?
  • When did it happen? 
  • Was there a conflict or problem? 
    • How was it resolved or why wasn’t it resolved? 
    • Underline the parts of the reading that correspond with your answers.

Critical Thinking
  • Develop a critical thinking question about the reading – a type of question that does not have a “yes” or “no” answer. 
    • How would you answer the question?

Partner Talk
  • Compare your summary with with that of a partner
    • Did you both come up with the same thing?
    • What are the differences? 
    • Can you come to an agreement? 
  • Exchange critical thinking questions with your partner. 
    • Compare your partner’s answer to your own.

Analysis/Concluding the Reading
  • Answer the questions, take the quiz, have a group discussion
    • Did you meet your goal? 
    • How successful were you? 
      • If yes, what was most helpful to you in meeting it?
      • If no, what might have helped you meet your goal?

Rate Your Understanding
  • How well did you feel like you understood your article/reading?
  • Which strategies were most helpful to you?
    • How can you apply them to future readings?
  • What else might you have needed in order to better understand the reading?

Monday, June 9, 2014

The case for banning laptops...

This morning @mcleod shared an article via Twitter, about college professors' case to ban laptops in the classroom. The article discusses the negative impact of multi-tasking on performance, the decreased value of note-taking on a laptop, and lower quiz scores from students who had a laptop vs those who used pencil and paper. The real meat of this article, quite possibly the most important sentence, is when the author, Dan Rockmore, shares the following:
 These examples can be seen as the progeny of an ill-conceived union of twenty-first-century tools (computers, tablets, smartphones) with nineteenth-century modalities (lectures).
Herein lies the problem. The problem is not that students are on Facebook and Twitter during class, the problem is not that my ability to type quickly and produce a verbatim transcript of the lecture decreases my inner-analysis of what is actually being said, the PROBLEM is your monotonous, self-indulgent, egotistical 50+ minutes of lecture. Forget that no real application of any sort of active learning is taking place, obviously the glow from my Apple is disrupting my ability to regurgitate back to you the analysis and research that you have already done for me.

Is there a place for balance? Absolutely. Is there a place for teaching good digital citizenship and a place for modeling "computer etiquette? Definitely. But there is also a place for significant improvement in higher ed in terms of understanding teaching and learning. I would imagine that you would be hard-pressed to find a student who identifies a 300+ student lecture hall with 60 minute lectures three times per week as their preferred learning environment.

I'm not naive. I realize that packed lecture halls are cost-effective, and I don't know that it's even what I'm proposing. What I do know is that my ONCE a week lecture followed by my THREE times a week small group discussion and work session (shout out to Luther College) was significantly more engaging, meaningful, and effective than any 3x/week lecture course I was required to take after I transferred.

The case for banning laptops?

Let's start making a case for looking at increasing engagement in higher ed.