Tag Archives: digital-identity

The Big Picture

cc licensed flickr photo shared by the1secondfilm

I recently approached the administration in my school district about creating a YouTube channel for my media and film production high school students. The purpose of the channel would be twofold – firstly, to showcase student work, and secondly (and more importantly), to allow my students to learn from each other. I’ve always had class sharing of all media or film projects, but they tended to be a “too short class viewing” followed by a quick critical discussion of the work (all within a 70 minute block). While this has worked, it didn’t allow for (easy) repeat viewings that are needed when checking out certain techniques or searching for deeper meaning. Students would now have both the opportunity and the time to see each others films and think about them beyond the walls of the classroom and the minutes of the typical school day.

The idea of a YouTube channel emerged because my students had been requesting it and it was clear to me their voices needed to be heard. It is something that has relevance to their world, but extends to an educational application. Some students even suggested they would be able to link their work to their resumes or post-secondary applications, while others wanted to be able to show their parents our work. Clearly we were heading in the right direction. The good news is the school district has supported this initiative.

When I approached the school district I provided some clear parameters for how we would use this high school channel. I would be in charge of uploading so care would be taken regarding security and privacy issues, and there would be clear quality control – it isn’t simply a matter of every project being posted. Students must use copyright free, or cleared material only (I’ll cross the mash-up and re-mix bridge when I get to it!). Students who appear on camera must have their parents sign a letter giving permission for this. We are still sorting out what to do with the credits, but we’ll start by only including students’ first names and last initials. I am hopeful this can be expanded to full names as we get a better sense of the cyber implications. If other issues arise we’ll keep all stakeholders informed and make decisions accordingly. It has been my experience when embracing new technologies that it works well to start slowly and then expand boundaries as understanding grows and the needs change.

One of the first projects we’re going to try on the channel is to experiment with one story told using a variety of web tools. This idea originates with Alan Levine (aka “cogdog”) who explored over 50 web tools to tell the story of his dog Dominoe. Not only will students learn the tools, but they will also figure out which ones worked better than others and why. The students have agreed on the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” because the story has a universal theme and can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. We are just getting underway on this project so stay tuned for updates.

And now for the big picture!

I have discovered by using social media and web tools myself, that, in turn, my students share their similar interests. Out of this emerges a valuable dialogue that centres on creating a digital identity. Most of my students had never really given much thought to their digital footprint before (other than avoiding posting inappropriate photos on Facebook or elsewhere), and have welcomed the chance to talk about it. This discussion has led them to realize that creating their digital identity and managing their reputation is something they have a lot of control over, and it is both valuable and increasingly necessary in the world. Indeed, they begin to see both the forest and the trees.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Timo Kirkkala


A Virtual Bridge

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Thomas Hawk

Exploring the theory of connectivism and the concept of networking requires a great deal of insight. Indeed, a forward thinking school district (and IT services) would change the red light to green and start to say “why not?” rather than “I’ll get back to you”, “fill out these forms, “maybe” or just plain “no”. Schools would (and I believe should) be challenged to embrace and teach the challenging skill set necessary to put connectivism theory into networked practice. This skill set, as highlighted by Drexler, includes finding, accessing and evaluating information, managing this information, creating a type of virtual textbook out of it, reflecting, responding, and sharing ideas that emerge from this, and virtually communicating appropriately with others. All of this is done with a wide variety of evolving web tools from blogs to wikis to readers to podcasts, and includes live chats, video sharing, social bookmarking, presentation applications (written, video, slides, etc…), and social media of many types. An on-line identity is created and shaped and shared in this brave new world. Currently bits and pieces of the tools of connectedness are addressed at school, but much of this is done within optional courses. Complicating this is the fact that many students are not strong readers and writers, and struggle with basic literacy skills (a crucial underpinning of any learning –  networked or not). Other students may not have the needed access to a computer (and a good internet connection), while still others may not have the interest or desire to seek connections no matter how much their friends talk about it or how exciting a teacher can make it seem.

So what might this mean for a high school student in Canada today?  In reality, I see many of my students exploring connectedness already (although it’s difficult to know what the degree and quality of this exploration may or may not be) . Too often I sense that the method students use is simply to muddle ahead, try stuff out, ask friends and hope for the best. Well it is admirable for students to do this, they often do so without the benefit of experience and the development of judgment. This is where I see connected educators and learners playing a pivotal role. They can bridge the ideals of the networked student with the reality of high school. They can help students to see the relationship between the media they already have appropriated and demonstrate to them how it might be better and more meaningfully used. And this is where creative thinking can help extend the typical classroom boundaries. This year I have included my students in much of what I’m doing for my various Masters courses specifically so they can see me as a learner (and not just the teacher). They watch as I try out new web tools, communicate with people from all over the world (they particularly like the comment I received from the Greek photographer whose Flickr picture I used to illustrate a point in my August 4th blog – an “amazing story” moment) and share, post, and extend my ideas. I’m absolutely not the expert (more like a willing volunteer and learner) who has managed to connect and dialogue with people who know more things about the topics I’m trying to explore and who provide valuable insight and feedback. I’m fine if they see me stumble along the way. In a very real sense my classroom has become a window into this world and as the trickier issues of the K-12 world and the virtual world merge I hope we can bridge the gaps even more.

Like the moving stairs Harry Potter navigates at Hogwart’s we have to be prepared as not only the on and off points change, but the destinations we arrive at have changed as well. I have no doubt, as 21st learners, that my students are more than up to that challenge.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by herbstkind