Monthly Archives: October 2013

Project Update

One week ago, I went over to Michelle Hiebert’s house. For those of you who don’t know, Michelle and I are working on our Master’s degree and are collaborating on our class project. What initially started as a scope and sequence on technology for young learners, has evolved into a “how to guide on twitter” for early childhood educators and a book written by kids for kids on using twitter. We had a productive session last Sunday, where we got much of our writing down and Michelle tutored me in using Google docs.

The week prior to our working session, I spent a lot of time reading reports and research on social media usage by teens and by kids under the age of 13. I know that Facebook requires users to be over the age of 13, but twitter has no age restriction when signing up for an account.  I learned that many children under 13 are lying about their ages to create to a Facebook page and aren’t aware of the privacy settings that are there to keep them safe.  Some of these kids are creating profiles with parental knowledge, but many are not.  Social Media has been in the news a lot in the past years with cyber bullying becoming a major concern for students, parents and educators. As I look around the students in my class and in my school, I often wonder how many of them are online at home without their parental units knowing.

Listening to stories in the media about online bullying and teens posting inappropriate videos and pictures has given me pause. I know that parents are not supervising kids on their devices. I know that parents themselves are learning the ins and outs of social media themselves. I know that kids love the apps on their tech, but there doesn’t seem to be that many people out there teaching kids how to use the social part of their devices. Even consoles like XBox and Playstation 3 have chats were there are no age restrictions and very little parental supervision. We, as educators, need to start teaching students and their parents how to use this social tool appropriately.

There are many people out there who think I am nuts using twitter in my classroom. I know that they do not understand why I use it.  This week at school, i tweeted with students individually with pictures of their patterns. Every single one of them wanted to put their name with their photo, and every single one them wanted to say where we were. I understood that they simply wanted to share what they had done, and with each child, I discussed why we don’t post names or our location. We looked at the photo to make sure it was appropriate before hitting the tweet button. Later, we were sent photos of an apple experiment and my students response was “Ew! Gross!” We talked about how we should respond to the apple experiment class, and how we don’t say things that are hurtful or that are mean. These lessons may sound silly to some, but my hope, as we continue on this journey, is that these kids internalize the message of “Be nice. Be kind. Be safe. Be respectful. Be cooperative” as they grow up and use these platforms independently.

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Grad School Support

I have struggled to write at times on this blog. When I first started my “musings”, they were personal thoughts and moments that I wanted to share with folks, to give them a glimpse into my often scattered mind. I deleted more posts than I published, and I wondered at times who would ever want to read the ramblings of me.  In September, I started back at University and found out that blogging would become a large part of my learning journey. I thought it would be easier to document this journey, but I have struggled with it. I have felt, for lack of a better word, dumb at times and very behind in my own knowledge of apps, programs, and technology usage. I am okay though, because I have some fabulous people cheering me on.

One of the people who is cheering loudly for me, is my friend, Michelle. We are doing the same course together and chose to work together on our first project. Michelle, @MauiMickey to a lot of people, is the person who first introduced me to the concept of Open Education. I don’t think either of us knew we were involved in Open Education, but she encouraged me to start following the #kinderchat hashtag and to delve into the weekly chats. I could write a whole month worth of posts on the amazing people I have met there, but that is for another time. I believe Michelle and I were both nervous and excited about starting our Master’s, but we knew we had each other for support.

Michelle and  I met for “University time” a few weeks ago at her house. We had come up with almost identical ideas for a project and we had an instant melding of our concept. At first, the idea of a scope and sequence for ECE people to use in their instruction of social media and connecting globally was a spark. We had an idea, a goal and we ran. Our plan was written up, we had focus. Michelle created a survey for students at our very different schools, and I started searching for research on underage Social Media usage. Through it all, I have had moments of panic, doubt and utter fear of failure. Throughout it all, Michelle has been a tweet away. Through our DM’s and Friday night socials, our project has evolved, grown and become something completely different from what I first envisioned. More importantly though, every single time I doubted myself, Michelle has been there to encourage me on.

Today, we met again for “University Time”. As we usually do, we had to get all of the decompressing about students and work out of the way first. Then came the questions: How are you doing on the blogs? Do you think we should send the survey out? How do you think we should organize who does what? How do we create a book? (okay that one was definitely my question). We had questions that neither of us could quite figure out, so we did the only logical thing. After several DMs with Valerie, we Skyped her. That conversation gave us our answers and a friendly, informal conversation occurred. A while after that, I had a moment where I looked at us. Michelle, on her school laptop with her iPad by her side, and me with my borrowed Macbook and sketchbook to scrawl in. I realized how very different we are and yet how well we work together. We easily came up with a list of things to put into our “How To” guide for ECE folks, and had no issues assigning jobs for each of to do.  Scheduling our next get together could have been a logistical nightmare. My weekends are dedicated to union business, and Michelle is a very busy mom, wife and teacher. But no, she quickly understood and adjusted her life to fit my crazy calendar.

I know the blog posts about out projects are supposed to be more about our projects, but somehow tonight, that wasn’t what was sticking in my brain. Our project, in my opinion, is awesome. We have a plan, we have a goal and we have our jobs to do. What I found so important today was the people I am working with. I appreciate Valerie dropping what she was working on to talk to us, assure us, clarify things for us and laugh with us. I am so immensely grateful to Michelle for every encouraging tweet and message, for her enthusiasm and her understanding.  A Kinderchat pal told me “the relationships in Graduate school are so important” and today I really realized how right she was.

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Who Am I?

“He thinks that man is me

He knew him at a glance!”

Herbert Kretzmer (Les Miserables)

Ever since our class on Thursday night, this song has been stuck in my head. I have sketched and thought for the past couple of nights over the subject of digital identity.  I realize that the song from Les Mis, has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with my course work or with digital identity, but it has called to me. That one simple phrase “Who am I?”

Jean Valjean, in Les Mis, hides who he is and allows the public to see a persona of authority and control. However, his sense of justice and right, his past crimes are always in his mind.  He is a man who has 2 identities, until that one moment when all is revealed. I hear those words from the song, “He thinks that man is me” and I wonder, how many of us are honestly ourselves in our digital identity. If I met many of my Tweeps, would I really know them? During the conversation on Thursday, I kept hearing and referring to the “Teacher” identity we have online, and I began to question how I identify myself digitally. Who am I? Do I define myself as teacher, diabetic, female, acitvist, Trekkie, Canadian, Whovian?  Which identity am I projecting in the world of Social Media? How do I stay true to myself and my beliefs, my nationalism, my passions all while protecting my career, my identity?

I know that people will say, “You should never post anything online that you wouldn’t say in real life.” Even that thought gives me pause. There are things I would post to my fellow union activists that I would never to say to my administrator. I post many fandom articles and pictures that I would never talk to many friends about.  I often say things in real life with the sarcastic inflection that has yet to be made into a special font for Twitter (although a sarcastic font would be very appreciated).

When I joined FB years ago, I joined as me. Not teacher me, not Geek girl, not union thug. I don’t FB much anymore. I use it as a random base to keep in touch with people not on Twitter. Twitter is my place now. I lurked for a long time there. I followed celebrities because I really didn’t know who to follow.  I was still “home” me, the person I am outside of the school environment. But as I look back on my years on Twitter, I have seen an evolution, a growth, a statement perhaps of who I am. Maybe it has come about through my own personal comfort level, perhaps it is due to a confidence I haven’t had in the past. I don’t know.

Who am I?

Can I conceal myself for evermore?

Pretend I’m not the man I was before?

Yet these words still ring to me. We have entered an age where our every move can be documented and shared with the great world around us. We, as adults, can have the conversation with our friends about respecting our privacy and not posting photos that are reserved for the albums of our youth. My peers and I can conceal those university photos and horribly embarrassing moments from our past. We can “pretend” to be the digital persona we are now, without the baggage. Our young people though do not have that luxury. A stupid photo taken at a friend’s party can ruin a scholarship opportunity, future employers can scour FB pages and Instagram to see who they are hiring and this makes me angry and concerned for the children I see online everyday. They don’t get the chance to hide their “shameful” incidents, their youthful transgressions. Posting photos and thoughts is a part of their everyday existence. They have become their own paparazzi, documenting the people around them regardless of privacy concerns. Youth are creating a digital identity that I hope they can grow out of and leave behind. I pray that we can change the norms and accept the person in front of us with the digital identity that has been cultivated and grown.

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EDCI Curse

My brain hasn’t been able to shut off for almost a month now. I know that the new school year, the grade change, and the usual stresses of September have caused my brain to run at a higher than normal speed, but this year, I have a new adrenaline rush. It’s name: Graduate School.

I have found myself thinking about my first Graduate course, EDCI 338, at the strangest times. The content which we have discussed permeates my brain in the dark hours of the evening, during the morning routine of my students, and even while sitting at a union executive meeting. I find that our class and Twitter discussions into technology, social media and inquiry based learning is starting to seep into every hour of my waking moments. It has become a living, breathing EDCI Curse

I look back through the sketchbook I use to document my thinking and learning, and I am struck at the words I see repeated. Inquiry. Project-based. Twitter. How? Curriculum. I understand why I am writing those words from every conversation I have, from each class I attend. in my head, however, I am still trying to weave everything I i have recently discovered about Early Childhood Development together with nature based experiences in a technological world. With every step I take towards resolving a question in my mind, 5 more pop up. Unfortunately, I am hung up on the word I find myself writing the most in my notes: Curriculum.

I read and reread the notes I took on Jeff Hopkins’ inspiring and energizing talk about his school, and I am passionately fired to provide opportunities of exploration, questioning and discovery for my young students. I prepare for questions from the parents, I garner support from the teachers around me, I search for ideas through my fabulous PLN. I relish the idea of cutting apart the outcomes and thinking of them as projects, instead of subject areas. I wish I could go back 6 weeks and have the time to do just that. As I put together a “discovery” plan for the week with my students, I am not just looking at the subjects, but the explorations we can do. I am prepared to justify this way of learning to practically everyone I meet. Every time I find myself getting excited about this new way of facilitating learning, I almost start to vibrate, but then I remember my dilemma. How do I justify this to an employer who requires numbers and data? How do I stand against the direction for me to produce percentages and statistics on 5 and 6 year olds? I know I am not alone in this question. It is one thing for an entire school to stand up and say, no. It is very different for a single teacher in a single district where the goals for some of our learners are so lofty and seemingly unattainable.   This is where my excitement begins to wane. It is a dilemma, a problem, which I know I have to face. I believe so strongly in what we are talking about and I know it will change learning for the better. I need our administrators, our superintendents and our governments to truly believe in it as well.

At the end of Jeff’s talk in September, I found a question scrawled in my book. It was simply, “Why won’t they do K-3? K-s Malaguzzi style!!” A part of me wishes and dreams that this would happen. That it could happen in my very own district. Instead, I suppose, it’s up to me and my fellow education reformers to start the change in our small, and large, classrooms around BC.  It’s time to be the “grassroots” movement taking kids out of a textbook and into discovery.  Thank you Jeff, for showing me a way to start.



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