Over the past few months I have been thinking about education trying to justify what actually needs to be taught in a world where information is just a few clicks a away and the phrase “just Google it” has become a part of our educational lexicon.  Since information is so easy to get now, what truly needs to be taught? Do we need to teach force students to remember specific dates of important historical events?  As the world becomes smaller through the use of technology, we as educators must force ourselves to analyze what is truly important and what needs to be the focus.  The following are my suggestions:

Learning:

More than anything I think we need to instill a love of learning into our students.  I remember sitting in many a class thinking my time would be better spent doing something else.  Yes I completed all the work and I played the game, but it wasn’t until university when I was allowed to fully choose what I wanted to learn. It was only then that I truly started to love learning and I haven’t stopped loving it since.  How to instill this lesson into students is an argument for another post but Sir Ken Robinson has a wonderful talk on how schools are killing creativity.



Collaboration:

Schools often use group work in class as a way to help students learn from and with each other and to learn the value of sharing work.  However, as technology makes coloration amongst schools easier to use, we must address issues of cultural differences*, the skills of working with people in different time zone, and the value of teamwork. 

Digital Citizenship:

The world has changed a lot since I was a child; it has changed a lot since I finished my education degree.  The students I teach can’t imagine a world without technology but there are many times where they simply don’t know about how to conduct themselves online.  Last year as I spoke to my students about downloading, more than half did not realize that downloading music and videos off the Internet for free is can be illegal depending on the situation.  During a conversation on Facebook, the majority indicated that they had an account despite being under the age of 13.   I told them that they had lied about their age which is technically against the terms of service.  Digital citizenship includes much more than just legal arguments but also creativity, privacy, cyber bullying, and addressing the digital divide etc.  If these skills are not taught we are doing our students a great disservice.

Balance:

The idea of living a balanced life is an important one.  Ensuring that students understand the importance of making face-to-face relationships, exercise, and learning when to turn off the screen is an important skill. 

If you’ll notice I did not put in any specific traditional content but instead focused on skills that I feel are important.  By teaching these skills within the framework of traditional required contents one can have a truly innovative program of education.  For example, if I was doing an unit on history and was having the students contduct research into Canadian lives during World War II, I would easily tie aspects of digital citizenship by talking about attribution of source material.  I would also allow my students create their own end product in a way that allows them to demonstrate their understanding.  In other words the key is to succeffully blend the skills of the modern age using the required knowledge base to form the backbone. 

Notes:

*Of course cultural differences are already being addressed within many schools but it needs to continue to be addressed as the world becomes smaller through digital technology.

Credits

 
Toward the end of last school year I e-mailed my future co-teacher in Busan and asked her if it would be possible for our students to have their own individual Gmail accounts.  Within a few days I heard back from her and said that yes they would set it up and that we no longer have IT classes but instead an ICT facilitator.  I was thrilled but was incredibly busy packing up my life in Tokyo to start seriously thinking about what the implications would be for this.

            When I arrived in Busan I had a rough vision of where I wanted to take the students and what I needed them to do learn in order to get there.   However, after having the students read the ICT Policy and realizing that they did not understand it, I knew the plan had to be modified.  I immediately put out a call on Twitter for a list of resources that I could use to get the students to analyze and create their own digital citizenship policy which demonstrates an understanding of how to conduct oneself appropriately and safely online.  After discussions with my co-workers we decided on the following plan of action to introduce the students to both Google Apps and Digital Citizenship. 

Introduction:

During introductory lessons, students were asked to explore the Webonauts web-site and Professor Garfield’s Digital Citizenship guide.  After the students explored these sites we had a brief discussion on Digital Citizenship and they demonstrated through their responses that they had understood the information on these sites.

Gmail and Google Apps:

Over the past few weeks we have been introducing our students to the various aspects of Google Apps.  Currently we have gone over Gmail and Calendar.  Over the next few weeks we will be introducing the students to Google Docs and how to work collaboratively.  In order to help students understand the various features of Gmail and Google Apps, I created some video demos and uploaded them onto my Vimeo site.
Digital Citizenship:

Currently we have requested that the students only communicate with others in the class and have reminded them that if there is any issue to let us know.  Our goal is to have the students work together in groups to research and work together to form specialty groups and by the end of it create their own digital citizenship policy and awareness campaign for the school.  (Embed Assessment task information).  Once the students have a detailed understanding of Digital Citizenship, we hope to open up our classrooms to begin working collaboratively with other schools.

So far this has been a long road of preparation but one that I feel will pay off in the end.  It is interesting to watch students learn how to efficiently manage their information and I can’t wait until they learn how to create documents on Google Docs and work collaboratively together to create a project..  This process and journey will be one of the main features in my COETAIL Course 5 presentation.    

Credits

Archiving by Brendan Lea, uploaded to Vimeo, Creative Commons Licensed

    Author

    Brendan is an international school teacher.  He currently teaches grade 4 at Busan International Foreign School.

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