The final project for the second course had various options, but I knew as soon as I saw it that the project into PD on digital literacy was what I needed to do.
I am a Physics teacher, and I love teaching Physics. However understand that there are things more important to student well being than Physics. Digital citizenship is one of those topics. Imagine yourself as a young human with a hammer – a brand new tool, you have never seen one so want to try it out! Well without proper teaching you can do a lot of damage. The same goes for what you do online – students may not realize it, but they can do a lot of damage with their new tool.
Digital Citizenship does not end in pastoral time either. As part of this project I was wondering how I could fit this into my Physics courses. The way I managed this was via a Q&A forum. The task was review based and worked like this:
- I set up a forum where the students can ask or answer questions posed by other students.
- Students are required to ask 2-4 questions they might have about anything to do with the topic.
- Students are required to answer 6-8 questions and help out their fellow students.
In terms of digital citizenship this gets them used to formulating well-worded, useful and polite responses on message boards. It’s a simple and easy thing to mix into my day-to-day lessons.
Why it means so much to me
As I have discussed in previous posts, how people treat one another online is something I am passionate about. Having played online games since thirteen years old I have seen the negative way many gamers treat one another. For many this is part and parcel of gaming or online communication and does no lasting damage, but for some it is a toxic environment that can deteriorate their mental health. I have seen what it means for people to be in a poor mental state and then get called rubbish or worse online. How students treat one another in the classroom is high on teachers lists of aspects to nurture as a part of the classroom ethos, but we need to be equally good at encouraging students to be empathetic when dealing with people when we cant have that face-to-face interaction.
This project had two sides to it:
- Build a course of 2-4 hours in length to better teach teachers how to teach about digital citizenship.
- Do this in collaboration with another member of the Online 8 cohort.
The first part I will discuss later.
Collaboration with Andy Richardson
Working with another member of my cohort on something like this would have used to be a challenging prospect. My partner, Andy Richardson, works in Ghana. This is a seven-hour time difference, which made live communication difficult (especially when I have Week Without Walls going on).
I do not believe the time difference impacted the work a great deal however, as although for some this type of communication is good – its not really a strength of mine. I prefer to digest information and act on it after processing. Live chat can sometimes be a little too immediate for me. We did make significant use of several different medium of communication:
- The trusty email. Email has been around a long time now, but its no less significant in how we get the job done. Using email we were able to communicate big ideas in thought out chunks of text. This was mostly used to direct big ideas and where we should start.
- Google Docs. The great thing about Google Docs is that it is fully collaborative. We utilized this by managing our to do list, our ordering, and our slides using various GSuite apps. This meant we could comment on one another’s work, ask questions, and generally work on the same document when our schedules allowed us to work. One thing that would have been great here was a chat room, as there were a few opportunities when we were online at the same time and chat might been useful, but these only exist within a few apps in Google’s offering.Another big use of Google Docs was the forms tool. We needed up to date data for this workshop, and wanted to make sure it was relevant to our own schools (which realistically is where the presentation is likely to be made). Thus we utilised Google Forms to generate a survey for students, so we could use their data to inform our work. The best things about this was that it pre-generated graphs that could directly snip and paste into our slides, and students were used to the user interface in Google Forms so they were more comfortable in completing it.
The real benefits I found to working with Andy though was our two different approaches to the activities and content. He thought of great ideas (the best example being the low tech social media activity) that I know would not have crossed my mind. I was also focused on using what I had learned in the course and applying that, whereas Andy was consistently finding new resources to add to the body of work that we had. So we ended up with a session that was at least much better than I would have been able to create alone. In terms of whether this would be as easy if we weren’t motivated by the course would be a different question, but in terms of the quality of work created I am sure it was improved through collaboration.
Our course is designed for two versions:
- A three to four hour professional development course focused on all aspects of the areas of digital citizenship (security, privacy, netiquette, online presence etc) that we found was relevant and applicable to our schools.
- A one-hour, cut down version of the four-hour sessions focusing on one particular area within the session. This is not included in this as it would be made from various sections relevant to the school (but essentially is a copy and paste of various slides).
The reason we made is this way was because of the unlikely chance of a school giving us a four-hour chunk to do such a big session. Conferences like Learning 2.0 have extended sessions, but these are more prestigious sessions and as such are in high demand, or run by more experienced workshop leaders. A one hour session was likely to be more universally useful to people.
The structure of the sessions is broken up into and introduction and four distinct chunks:
We felt this constituted the breadth of the topic and would provide educators with a good overview of the knowledge needed to take away and develop in their own schools. I also felt categorizing it like this gave it a fluid feel, direction in terms of where the course is going, and allows us to chop and change the shorter one hour session to be more tailor made to different institutions (i.e. you can just take the bit about privacy if that is an issue your school has). A future addition is that I will design a Google Form, which allows people attending the session to essentially say what they need the most in advance. The workshop leader then just needs to add in to a new presentations the sections they want.
Use of Google Tools
Google tools are used extensively in this session. Whilst they are still less functional than Microsoft’s offerings, they are free and so anybody can access this course even if they do not attend. They also offer optional collaboration, activities can mostly be solo or group work. This is a bonus in terms of tailoring activities to big or small groups. We utilized three different parts of the G Suite:
- Google Slides was used for the entirety of the presentation. It is functional and does most of what was needed to make the presentation animated and interactive. The only downside to Google Slides is that you cant ‘hide’ slides, which I like to do sometimes, as it seems messy clicking through slides you might not have time for during the session you are running.
- Google Docs has been used as an activities worksheet. This just helps us get through issues such as printing requirements, and using time to make tables and stuff in word. It is a quick way to get the template to staff.One feature of the Google Doc activities form is that the teaching tips are all in there, as are links to the rest of the resources. This is so teachers have on hand that information they might need to run an activity or talk to their students about.Google Docs was also used for the email activity, as I could not find a decent way to modify existing emails to have no malicious links in them, and then get those emails to whoever is running the workshop.
- Google Forms was used perhaps the most creatively, as I used it to create a sort of ‘build your own adventure’ style form for people to find a password system that works for them. Whilst it isn’t perfect, it is easy to modify and so if other ideas come to the front in the future this can be easily modified.Google Forms is also used as an exit task to elicit feedback from the group so the presentation might be improved in the future.
The handiest thing I found from the GSuite is that it had almost everything we needed to work with another person on this. If we needed a timeline we used Sheets. If we needed a slideshow we used Slides. We used Google Drive as a way to easily share new documents with one another. In all of the apps we could comment on each others work and so it made the process of collaboration way easier than, for example, a PowerPoint in a Dropbox folder (which would be harder when we worked on it at the same time).
Differentiation is built into this PD session in several ways. Different schools have different problems with their particular groups of students. Some might have issues surrounding privacy; some might have issues surrounding Netiquette. The course is subdivided up so as to easily deliver each section as a reasonably stand-alone session. This means it can easily be tailor made to personal specifications with little difficulty. We would provide what we believe is a one-hour version that covers all of the topics for those who need everything but have little time.
To engage different types of learners, we have used a mixture of teaching techniques so there is something for everybody (know that I do not necessarily believe in the concept of learning styles, but there are definitely ways people enjoy learning more than others and that is why we differentiate). Differentiation is particularly important here given the non-subject specific nature of the conversation. We used:
Some concepts are reiterated in different manners. Netiquette for example uses several of these methods to help participants understand the importance of it. The introduction uses data tables and activities to demonstrate the need for learning this.
Every year we have an afternoon at school called Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT). I intend to run a session on this during that session (a one hour ‘build your own’ version). I am then contemplating (depending upon the feedback from the session) considering running three or four optional after school sessions for teachers who are interested in hearing more on this topic. I have already had interest from other teachers who saw I was sending the survey around, so that is promising.
My belief is that the product we have created is a credible professional development session to cover the broader areas of digital citizenship. A huge thank you to Andy for being such a great person to work with. I think my big fear about this was that my partner would leave it all to the last minute, but Andy and I were pretty much on the same schedule for getting it done. The strengths are in some of the activities, which are student centered, and will foster discussion and understanding in students. I think there is still work to do on it before it is properly complete, but much of the information on what works and what doesn’t will come from actually doing the sessions. Collaborating with Andy on this project has been easy and beneficial, both to myself and to the project. Two minds are indeed greater than one, we just never had the glue to make it intercontinental before now!