Category Archives: Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context

The World We Can’t Ignore

The world we live in is messy.

Kids don’t necessarily have the same freedom to screw up that we once did, with the default mode of sharing that is innate in so many.  When I ask educators if they ever drank too much when they were in university or high school, the majority of hands always raise.

When I asked them how many posted it online, zero hands are raised.

We were so much smarter and more mature than the youth of today? Not even close.  The Internet and the ease of sharing that happens today,  did not exist.  Some of the same mistakes so many youth make today, we would have probably done the same if the opportunities were there.

Talking to students often, many of them talk about how unfair it is for them that are held to a much higher standard in many ways than we were as kids.  I agree, but I also remind them that they have opportunities and access to people that I could have not imagined when I was young.  I saw this amazing video of Kevin Durant, one of the best basketball players in the world, connecting with people on Twitter and playing flag football.

I have said often, access to all of the information in the world is pretty amazing, but what is more important, is that we have access to one another.

To be honest though, there are sometimes that I feel uncomfortable with the world that we live in now.  You hear a lot of stories of things happening online, such as how Facebook is cited in so many divorce cases, and I sometimes wonder if we are better off now than we were before. Technology can accelerate everything, both good and bad.  Sometimes the bad can be overwhelmingI get that.

What I do know is that no matter how overwhelming it can become, it is important that schools talk about this with our students and become a part of the conversation.  To ignore it is a disservice to our students.

The world, our world, is really messy and rather complicated.  Although there are so many similarities to kids now compared to when I grow up, there are a lot of differences as well.  Love it or hate, we can’t ignore the world we live in.

Questioning the Data

Proven methods of working with students are something that are important when working in schools, but there are a few things that I question when I hear schools talk about solely “data driven”.

First of all, nothing works for everyone. Nothing.  So when we look at “proven methods”, we are often looking at something that is more focused on the “system” than an individual, kids still get left behind.  We might get a better “grade” at the end as a system, but we are still failing kids.  If something worked for 100% of kids, we would all know it, and we would all do it.

Secondly, there are often so many things that are going on in school, how can we really compartmentalize the “one thing” that works?  For example, let’s say your school is focusing on the thoughtful use of technology in classroom, health and wellness, and improved assessment, and you see an increase in grades through the school.  Which initiative led to the increase or how much did anyone single initiative lead to whatever score you are looking for?  Unless you isolate something it is hard to tell what is successful.

This leads to another issue…what is the measure of success?  You may see an increase in test scores but kids might hate coming to school every day, because it is easy to teach to a test, while also killing a love of learning in our students.  You can also see that you can improve a score in anything if you put a massive focus on it. If you have a school or district focusing solely on “literacy scores”, leading to more hours focusing on traditional literacy (reading and writing) in the classroom, other things get lost in the shuffle.  Many organizations are looking for people who are creative, yet you see many programs in arts education that promote this creativity getting cut in search of “better test scores”.  So then what? When we focus on becoming great at one thing, something else usually gives.  So what is important and what isn’t?

But maybe I am way off with these thoughts.  I am not saying that data is not necessary, but more importantly, that we question how we got the data in the first place. I recently read a blog post titled, “The Lack of Evidence Based Practice; The Case of Classroom Technology“, where the author talks about how the use of technology has not increased “academic achievement”, and I would not argue this at all.  Adding technology to your schools often only makes your it “school plus computer”.  If you are not looking to change teaching and learning practice because of these technologies, obviously nothing will change.  But there is to more what is happening than any number can tell us, and that is why questioning the data in the first place is extremely important.  I also think there is a great irony that many school district statements “vision and mission statements” say very little about test scores, but when they measure if they are successful, that becomes the biggest driver.

So it is essential to find a balance.  We have to still look at “what works” from other places, and ask questions to dive deeper.  But we also have to still develop the “innovator’s mindset” in educators to encourage them  to develop new ideas that may help the kids in front of them right now.  If we wait for everything to be researched before we use it, we are going to lose a lot of kids.  Before something was researched, somebody tried it first with no data to support if it would be successful or not.  That is why relationships are so important in education.  Understanding who the learner is in front of you will often lead to creating new solutions for that child.  They don’t have the time for you to wait.

Data is important, but so is the ability to be adaptive and flexible.  We have to look at what works, what has worked, ask questions why it worked, but also look to create new and better opportunities for the students in front of us.  If we don’t look to people within the education system to be innovative, why would we expect kids leaving the system to do the same?

Twitter Equals Growth Mindset?

There is a lot of talk in education about Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset”, in which she discusses the idea that beliefs that “abilities, intelligence, and talents can be developed.” It is an idea that educators have latched on to (for good reason) since this is not something we want to only be able to develop in students, but in ourselves as well, in a world that is constantly changing.  I have even tried to even further this conversation talking about the notion of the “innovator’s mindset” in which this growth leads to the creation of new and better ideas.  With new knowledge, it is important to not only be open to it, but to take it and move forward with it.

This could be something to applied the idea of educators using Twitter.  The “growth mindset” is the openness to learning about the medium, but the idea of the “innovator’s mindset” leads to people creating hashtags to share things that are happening in their classroom, or using it to connect with educators that teach the same discipline as they do.  With the Twitter now implementing video in the service, it will be something that people will not only be open to learn, but I am sure will do interesting and new things with.  With new technologies, people not only learn how to use them, but they repurpose them to create new and better ideas.  It is probably one of the reasons why Twitter moved from the idea of “what are you doing”, to “what’s happening” in the update box.  People were not solely focused on sharing their own personal updates, but started sharing news from their viewpoints, and created movements moving forward.  Twitter became what it is today because of people’s willingness to not only use it, but to further it with ideas that I am assuming the developers could have never imagined.  Our openness to learn and to develop new ideas because of this development was crucial in this process, as with so many other technologies.

Recently though, I read a post by Tom Whitby and was intrigued about the following quote:

Without a mindset for continually learning, or a limited view on what one is willing to learn, it will be difficult to change the status quo in education. Connecting with others may be a great idea that we all agree will make a difference in education, but what good does that do us, if a majority of educators are only comfortable doing what it is they have always done. Of course, it should go without saying that if staying within those comfort zones worked, we would not be having a global discussion on needed reforms for education.

In order to create these much-needed Personalized Learning Networks educators will need to learn about social media and its culture. The ins and outs of Twitter would be the most efficient and effective way to share what is needed for educators. This however takes some time to learn, and it also takes a commitment of at least 20 minutes a day interacting with connected colleagues for anyone to benefit from this. The benefits far outweigh the time and work involved, but the fact of the matter is that not every educator has a growth mindset. Not every educator shows a willingness to leave those zones of comfort. For those reasons Twitter will never connect all educators. The shame of it is that Twitter is probably the best way to share and learn available to us now.

What threw me off when reading this is the idea that it somewhat equated the idea that if you are on Twitter you have a “growth mindset”, and if you aren’t, you don’t, and you are not willing to grow.  This could be lumped into the same area of making statements such as “you are a bad teacher if you use worksheets”; it may spark thought but it could also alienate some really great teachers.

Here is a couple of things on the idea that you have a “growth mindset” if you use Twitter.  First of all, I don’t really believe that the idea people have a “growth mindset” in all areas at all times.  If you took my own viewpoints, with many things in education, I am very open to learning about them and applying them to my own work, but if you took the idea of skiing, my mindset is very fixed.  I have no interest in learning or having the growth mindset towards flying down a hill in snow in freezing Canadian temperatures, all the while so many people tell me how amazing it is. You do not have either a “fixed” or “growth” mindset; you have either a “fixed” or “growth” mindset on certain things, and for most educators.

This is not just outside the idea of education as well, but well within in.  I have challenged people on the ideas of awards for students, and from some of my conversations, some educators have no interest in thinking differently about the process no matter what is presented to them.  It is not about a right and wrong in the process, but more the idea of  “I am good with what we are doing at this present time”.  I used to feel the same way about Edcamp; I did not really understand the appeal of the process and thought it seemingly was a waste of time, even though so many people said the exact opposite.  Having gone to it at one point, I saw how powerful it could be and my mindset towards it moved from a very “fixed” one to an “open”.  On Google Plus I have a pretty “fixed” mindset at this point.  Do I know it can be powerful? Absolutely.  Do I care about learning more about it at this point? Nope. I spend enough time using the social networks that I am currently on that I do not have time to add something that is probably great, but in many ways similar to what I am using.

It is not an “either/or” process, but something that can develop over time.  Some educators were totally “fixed” on the idea of using Twitter at one point, but at some point they had a “growth” mindset that was sparked to try the service.  To get people to that point, it rarely is achieved with a hard push, but often more of an understanding of where they are, and putting them in a place where they can make their own connections.  I think that people are sometimes reluctant to change, but I also think that we can be equally terrible of helping move people to change.

The other notion from the article is the idea that if you are an educators that is on Twitter you have a growth mindset.  There are many educators that actively use Twitter, went through the process of learning it, yet aren’t necessarily open to new ideas, or ideas out of their usual circle that they may connect with.

Not being on Twitter doesn’t mean that you have a fixed mindset, any more than being active on Twitter means that you have a growth mindset.

Learning is a very personal thing, and sometimes we aren’t open to things not because we aren’t open to them, but because we just aren’t ready to take that leap at this certain point.  I would say the majority of educators that are actively using Twitter to share ideas on education, were at one point against the idea of using it.  Learning can be very circumstantial, and sometimes we just aren’t ready for new ideas, no matter how good they might seem.  If we are never open to new ideas, that is a problem, but some of the best educators that I know display a “growth mindset” in so many areas, yet do not use or care to use Twitter.  They still make a major difference for kids and we have to recognize it.

There are many great reasons why we should try new things, but if we (educators) are not open to one thing, it is not about simply lumping people into one category or another, but understanding there is always more to the picture than we might be able to see.  If we really want people to be open to change, I think it is essential that we focus on what they are great at first, as opposed to where they are deficient.  Showing someone that they are valued for what they already do, is important in the process of learning as it builds both confidence and competence, and if we are going to really embrace a “growth mindset” where we are willing to take risks, that feeling of safety with our peers is essential.

3 Things Students Should Have Before They Leave High School

There is a great commercial on TV right now, where a candidate for a position goes in for an interview to become an engineer, and as the interviewer is asking him “what makes you qualified for this position?”, which then follows him sitting down and breaking the chair.   The person applying then comments about the design of the chair and how it is not made to hold someone with “all that weight”.  Obviously, the interview is over immediately after that, with the point of the commercial being that it is not enough to just “have the skills” to do the job, but there are so many other skills for any position.  You can understand all of the elements of being a “great teacher”, but knowledge is not only important, but also the skills to do the job, and the ability to even obtain a position in the first place.

So how are schools helping students create opportunities for themselves both during their time in school, and after as well?  In my time in school, I remember going over how to make a resume, and looking at how to create a paper portfolio.  Both were relevant to me at the time, but not necessarily helpful to our students today.  Mashable has an interesting article on “The 10 Reasons Why I Ignored Your Resume”, and a lot of the tips deal directly with a person’s digital footprint and networking:

Job hunting is hard, so don’t make it harder that it has to be. Do yourself a favor and don’t give a company a reason not to hire you before you even get to the interview. Marketing has changed, adapt your job search strategy accordingly!

Although this article is geared towards marketing, there are many elements that would be applicable to a wide range of careers.

I recently saw educator Joti Jando share an article about her business students taking part in a “Dragon’s Den” activity, which went way beyond “creating something” and becoming engaged in the classroom, but giving them real world skills and understanding of the opportunities that exist:

Students presented their business ideas – including a breakdown on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, competition, management and operations, related government regulations and financial analysis – for assessment by the panelists.

This type of real-world exercise raises the level of student engagement, Jando has found.

Textbook and theoretical lessons don’t generate the same kind of enthusiasm or practical experience, she (Jando) suggested. Furthermore, an opportunity to meet and network with successful business people and entrepreneurs may hold as much value as this project-based learning.

So although the examples I have shared seem to be specific to “business”, there are a lot of takeaways for all of our students in helping them to not only learns content and skills in school, but actually helping them to create opportunities for themselves in our world.

Here are three things that I would like to see all students have by the time they graduate from our schools to help create opportunities for themselves.

1.  Students should be connected through a social network with other people in their field of choice.

Teachers love Twitter, and although there is great learning that happens there, many educators have created opportunities for themselves simply being connected and networking with other people.  I know several teachers that have obtained positions in new schools because they had someone interested in their work that they shared through Twitter.  There are a lot of possibilities for anyone.  For our students though, Twitter may or may not be the place.  YouTube, Instagram, Vine, LinkedIn, Google Plus, or probably ones that I don’t even know about, have a plethora of communities in any given profession.  Students should not only be able to learn from people in the field, but also network and create connections with others.  I am sure we have all heard the saying, “it is not what you know, but who you know.”  The adage hasn’t changed, but the opportunities and ease of access to one another has.  We need to help students connect.

2.  Students should have a digital portfolio. 

There have been a lot of articles shared that the “resume is dead“,  and that our social networks are more crucial than ever.  Although a resume has a place in many institutions, a digital portfolio definitely can be seen as giving someone an advantage as it gives a deeper look into someone’s skill sets, and is accessible 24/7.  Recently having my own wedding, if you were a photographer that did not have a digital portfolio of your work, we were not even going to consider hiring them.  They didn’t even exist in our considerations.  Being able to find someone online is one thing, but having the opportunity to look deeper into their actual work is crucial.  Whatever the format, or the medium (written, images, video, podcasts, and so on), it is necessary for an employer to go beyond the resume. A resume can be a part of this, but it only tells a small part of the story.

3.  Students should have an “about.me” page.

About.me is a great way to share a “digital business card”, and I have likened it to your Internet cover letter.  It is not overwhelming with information, but it has links to much more.  (Here is an example of a student’s page that was actually featured on the about.me homepage!) Having your about.me link as your email signature is a great way to not overwhelm future employees with some LONG quote at the end of each email, but also gives them the opportunity to connect with more information if they are interested.  The other reason I really like the thought of students creating their own about.me pages is that it actually links to their other social networks, which if they are thoughtful about it, probably be a lot more appropriate if they know potential employers or post-secondary institutions are looking at what they are sharing. In a recent article from US Today, Marymount University coach Brandon Chambers was quoted as saying, “Never let a 140 character tweet cost you a $140,000 scholarship.” Having an about.me page is sending a different message.  It is saying, “here are my social networks and I encourage you to look at them.”  What impact would this have on student’s not only on their future, but their digital footprint today?  I think having the ability to bring everything together could be very powerful for our students.

Of course, there are no absolutes in what a student should walk away with, but if schools focused on these three areas as part of what a student would leave a school with, would it not also help tremendously with many of the “digital footprint” issues that we are seemingly having in schools?  By placing an emphasis on using these tools that are at our students’ fingertips, we hopefully can not only help them share their abilities, but help them make the connections to utilize those same abilities to their fullest.

In a world that is extremely digital, we need humanity more than ever.

This is just going to be all over the place so I apologize in advance but this is writing to learn more than writing to share my learning.

Our world is awesome.

Technology allows us to do things that we could never do before.  We can video chat with people around the world simply, for a much cheaper rate than we could have called them years ago.  I have memories of my dad that I can relive over and over again, even after his passing. Every time we press “tweet” or “publish” it gets around the world instantly.  There is a power in our hands and in our pockets that we could not have imagined.  But with every step forward, we sometimes lose things along the way.

I can now call pretty much any services I have and I can get to anything I want through an automated machine that is often much quicker than any person I could talk to, yet when I get on the line, every single time, I press “0” immediately.  For all that technology gives us, I still want to talk to a person.

I love that I can do online banking, but I also love the interactions that I can still have in the bank.  That choice matters to me.  One time though, I distinctly remember going into the bank to make a deposit and being asked if I was interested in a tax-free savings account, followed by RRSP’s, and so on.  I saw the teller was not looking at mean and reading off their computer a list of questions that were suggested based on my financial situation. In my conversation with a person, I had been reduced to an algorithm.  When I actually called them out on this, they were embarrassed not only because of me saying something, but because their company put them in the situation in the first place. This example is crucial to the work that we do in education.

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, relationships will be the most important thing we do in schools.

I am guessing that some parents feel this same way when they call schools to report of the absence of their child.  Yes, the technology makes it convenient, but sometimes a person needs to talk, and sometimes they need to be heard.  The “tech” sometimes leaves them lacking the piece of mind that they needed from that phone call.  It is not simply about what is convenient, but sometimes what is needed.

Although I think technology is so crucial to our roles today, I think the more digital we are the more “human” our schools and leadership needs to become.  Sharing our stories and connecting through social media brings a lot in creating a human connection, but I still love the teacher that welcomes kids to their classroom every morning and has a conversation with them, or the principal who stands in the middle of the hallway to have conversations with kids about almost everything except for school.  Although things like supervision might seem like an “add-on” to our day, I started to look at it as an investment into people.  Talk to someone for ten minutes and take a sincere interest in their lives, and that ten minutes will come back to you exponentially.

There is something that we lose sometimes in our interactions on social media.  Many people (and rightfully so) do not share many aspects of their lives through what they share online.  For me, I share with people that the safest “guideline” to follow on social media is that you would not say anything online that you would not say to a group of kids.  Yet that doesn’t mean that people share their lives openly online, but what they are comfortable with other people that they may consider “strangers”.  You might not see the whole picture and there is so much more to a person than what they share online.

With a world that is increasingly digital, our “humanness” is more crucial than ever.  I am reminded of Charlie Chaplin’s speech in the “Great Dictator” in 1940, and how some elements of that speech from that movie made years ago are as relevant as ever.

We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind.

We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery ,we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.

So with all the talk of technology, we just need to remember that there is so much more to schools and some of the best things in “20th Century Education” are just as relevant today.  If you are a school that does not focus on building relationships, you are on a faster road to irrelevance than one that doesn’t use technology.  In a world where information is easy to access and I can always find better content online than I can in school, the refocus on relationships is more crucial now than ever.

Embrace technology; it will provide people opportunities that we could have dreamed of when we were kids.  But just remember that people will always be the most important part of the education system.  As soon as we reduce everyone to a number or an avatar, we will have lost more than we could have ever gained.

Digital Citizenship in the Time of “Instant Celebrity”

I have to admit it…I could watch Vine videos all day. I didn’t really think much of the “6 Second” service until I met Ray Ligaya. Ray was at a speaking event I had in Waterloo, Ontario, where I was talking about social media, where he was serving. We started talking about Twitter and he asked me if I had heard about Vine. I had but didn’t really think much of it, until he told me had hundreds of thousands of followers on the service. I started following him, and he has the typical videos that I would have made when I was his age, with a lot of potty humour, yet it appeals to a ton of people. He told me already that time that he had been “recognized” often because of his work through the service, so I was hooked, and started looking more and more at the service.

What I had noticed was that a lot of the popular Vine accounts were created by teenagers. Some of them dancers, some of them comedians, and some of them just sharing little aspects of their lives, in a compelling way. There is seemingly a little and a lot that can be created in 6 seconds which is creativity, even if it looks different than what we are used to seeing, and there is actually a lot of money being made from the serviceBrandon Bowen is a 16 year old who has seen tremendous success through using Vine (he has over a million followers on the service), but also still deals with a tremendous amount of bullying, yet has a tremendous sense of humour:

Talking about this with my friend Chris Wejr, he asked the question, “what would it be like to grow up as a kid today? This has to have some kind of impact.” The instant “celebrity” is something that many kids dreamed up as a kid but did not have the same opportunities that exist today, but with that, comes the down side. There are probably a lot of kids dealing with harassment online, nasty comments, and things I couldn’t even imagine.  “Alex from Target” had instant fame and he talked about the downside and the impact of his life. According to the story, it wasn’t even of his own doing (although there are reports that the story was made up), and now he has to deal with the impacts of being “famous” which, according to Nick Bilton, has had some huge negative consequences:

While Alex is clearly enjoying some of the attention, he and his family have also had to deal with more serious consequences of web fame. A crafty marketing firm, Breakr, tried to take credit for Alex’s rise. (Everyone the company claims it worked with, including Alex’s family and @auscalum, has denied ever hearing of Breakr.  In a report, BuzzFeed said that the company’s claims simply don’t add up.)

Thousands have taken to social media to call Alex names (including vulgarities) or fabricate stories about him being fired. Twitter is littered with posts that denigrate his looks (e.g., “Alex from Target is so damn ugly”) or spew envy at him (“Alex from Target is a nobody who doesn’t deserve fame”).

There have even been dozens of death threats on social media and in private messages (“Alex from target, I’ll find you and I will kill you”).

A Vine video of Liam Payne from One Direction tells a powerful story of fame in our world today where he is smiling for each “selfie” he takes with a fan, yet in the milliseconds in between pictures, you can seen the wear it has on him, even in complete adoration.

There are so many people who will come up to person and not ask their name, or want to have a question, yet will simply want a selfie, to say that they met that person. I really loved listening to Louis CK talk about how he actually refused to take pictures with fans but actually made them have a conversation, and the sheer disappointment that some of them had for actually having to talk to the celebrity.

This is not just kids mind you,but adults as well. Think about this…if you could meet a celebrity and talk to them for one minute without any of your friends ever being allowed to know, or could take a selfie with them to share with the world, which one would you take? I don’t think many people would have an answer.

So if we continue to talk about “digital citizenship” with our kids, I think the conversations have to evolve past solely focusing on “being safe” and cyberbullying (which are important but there is so much more to discuss), but also about the impact that this media can have on our lives, and how some would even say that it is making us “needier”. More and more kids are answering the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, with answers like “YouTube celebrity” or “Vine Star”. Too many, it is an easy step to fame that comes with many benefits (like a salary) at a young age, but also can easily turn to online harassment from many that can turn likes (or sometimes the lack of them) into anxiety. We don’t have to worry only about the psyche of a kid who doesn’t get the “likes” or is not “reshared”, but also the ones that do get the likes.

This is so complicated for so many reasons.

There are lots of questions that we need to ask in a world where a kid can create a life for themselves that we couldn’t create this quickly even ten years ago. But as with all learning, our understanding of “digital citizenship” has to continuously evolve and we need to continuously have conversations with our kids about this topic.

We have some tricky waters to navigate.

(If I could suggest a book to read on this topic that is extremely worth it, take a look at Danah Boyd’s “It’s Complicated; The Lives of Networked Teens”. It will definitely help with conversations in your classroom on this topic that go beyond “Don’t talk to strangers.”)

“Their Needs” vs. “Our Wants”

Moderating a student panel, I asked the audience to tweet some questions for the students, and one of them had some interesting responses. The audience asked, “Do you see pencil and paper being in schools 10 or 20 years from now?” When I asked the question, the adults in the room and had no idea where the students were going to go with the question.

One of the responses from the students was basically, “how could you predict what devices, pencils or otherwise, that will be in schools 10 years from now when it is hard to tell what will be using in a couple of years?” I thought this was a great perspective and a great counter argument to the boards that spend significant amounts of time discussing what school will look like in 2030. Tools and access to information changes a lot because it is so interconnected to learning. It reminded me that we often spend so much time planning for a future that we cannot predict, that we often forget the kids in our school presently. I don’t think too many grade ten students are worried about school in 2030; they are thinking about what school looks like now.

Another response to the question from a student was basically that as long as kids need them and have different learning styles, they should be in the classroom. I thought it was such a great point and it was a student focused answer, which ours should be as well. On one hand, you have a lot of people saying that we should not have technology in school for a myriad of reasons, but on the other hand, there is a lot of people that would rather see every kid have a device. The student reminded me that both approaches are wrong. Our approach should be focused on what (individual) students need, not what we want them to have.

There is so much we can learn about the direction of our schools now if we are not only willing to listen to our students, but act on what they tell us.

Credibility in the Conversation

Educators tend to listen to other educators.  It is not that we are not open to listening to people outside of the education realm, but being a part of a school and understanding the intricacies of what teachers deal with is important for perspective.

I have heard before, during, and after talks educators not to excited about a message from a “non-educator” because of those important details that they tend to miss.  Learning is one aspect of our job, but if you are working with so many students that each are so unique in their own way. a lot of ideas shared are not as simple as they may seem to someone who has never taught a classroom full of children.  Although we should always be open to different perspectives, I think it is fair that we tend to connect more with someone who has done the work.

So when so many people are giving young people suggestions on how they use technology, the “do’s and don’ts” (they are more often don’ts from what I have seen), and ideas on social media without ever using it, I wonder if kids see us with the same lens of “credibility” that we tend to use with others outside the field.

I remember this older post by Will Richardson on “Balance” and how we often tell kids that they are out of balance because they use too much technology when they might see adults as out of balance because they do not use it enough.

I just wonder if the same credibility from experience that so many people value (in all professions, not just education) is something that young people consider as well?

If you have no idea what SnapChat is or how to use it, do you think a kid really cares when we say that they shouldn’t use it?

Snapchat and Education

I think I did it…

I think I finally figured out a way that schools can use Snapchat to connect with their school communities. I will get to that in a bit.

If you have decided to stop using the Internet over the last few years and have never heard of Snapchat, it is the app that is hugely popular with kids and terrifies adults, mostly because it was known as the “sexting app” to many people.  Yet, when I go to schools and ask kids who uses Snapchat, it is almost all of them.  Although there is inappropriate use of the app (just like every app in existence), there is something that is appealing to a massive amount of people and why the company is considered to be valued in the 10 billion dollar range.

I personally have had an account for a long time but never used it, or really thought of using it until I saw this video:

Notice no mention of Twitter or Voxer in the piece? (I feel old)

What I found really interesting was the immediacy of Snapchat that draws people to it, and also what seems to create a more authentic user experience.  If you know a picture will disappear (and I know you can screen capture it) are you more willing to share a “true” moment as opposed to the “perfect” moment we often share on Instagram (which is put up on your wall until you take it down)?  The “story” element also brings a whole other dimension and pushes the app past the idea of just being another way to text friends.

I started using Snapchat this morning with Paige (I made her sign up to help me figure it out) and shared what I was doing during the day while she sent me pictures of her and the dogs.  I really had no idea how to use it in the first place so I looked it up on YouTube and figured it out. It was kind of a neat experience and I definitely see the appeal.  For years though, I have been saying to parents that I could not think of a way to use Snapchat in schools, but after seeing how you could share “Stories“, finally thought of something.  The “story” feature could allow you to show what a day in your school looks like, while also deleting the “permanency” of the pictures/videos online.  It could be a cool way to reach kids at an app that they are already on.

Or maybe it isn’t.

I asked if any schools were using Snapchat and got a great response that really pushed my thinking:

Great point.

Although I think it is important that we have an understanding of what most of our kids are using in schools today, I also don’t think we need to invade every space that kids are on or write “10 ways to use Snapchat with your students” blog posts.  Perhaps the biggest appeal to students using Snapchat is not the app but it is that it seems to them not many adults are using it?  Do you remember being a high school kid and wanting nothing more than to hang out with your parents? Me neither.

I really think we need to start paying more attention to things like Snapchat and Vine, and try to not just understand these apps but also try to understand why they are so appealing to so many.  This doesn’t mean we have to use them in schools but I think it is important that we can have a conversation with our students.

Not every technology needs to be “edufied” but in a world that there are so many new things that we are still learning about and figuring out, I think it is important that we have some credibility in the conversation.

Do kids always need to be “challenged” in subjects they don’t care about?

Something reminded me of this story from my teaching career so I am just writing to process my thoughts…please forgive my rambling.

In my first couple years in my education career, I was teaching a high school math course that was based on simply the basic of math.  It was for students who needed a math credit to graduate, but weren’t taking something like calculus or a higher level of math.  To be honest, many of the students in the class either struggled with school, or didn’t see it as relevant.

One of my students (we will call her Lisa) was in the course, not because she wasn’t able to do calculus, but she simply needed the math credit to graduate.  Her attendance in class was terrible, and for the first few weeks, I was on her case about attending.  We would have tests, she would show up, knock it out of the park, and I wouldn’t see her again until one or two days before a test, and she would simply repeat the process. Show up, ace the exam, and leave.

On one of these days, I asked to speak to her and I told her that I knew she was good at the class so I really wanted to challenge her thinking and do some higher level work so that she would be compelled to attend.  Lisa told me that she really had no interest in attending, even if I “challenged” her, and she just needed the math credit to graduate.  Then I told her that she needs to attend or she could get in serious trouble, and she asked me “why?”, to which I replied, “it’s the rule”. Probably the dumbest answer I could give.

We talked, and eventually she convinced me that really, she didn’t need to attend.  She was working on something else that she actually cared about that had nothing to do with math. She would show up for any assessments, prove that she met the objectives of the course, and then go off to do what she was excited about and saw as relevant to her life and goals.  She ended up with the worst attendance and the best mark. Go figure.

A few questions this raises for me…

Why would we keep a kid in a class where they totally understand the objectives and have no interest in going further?  Do we need to “challenge” kids in areas they don’t really care about in the first place?

What purpose is school serving this student if she is just jumping through hoops to get a degree?

Has school changed enough that this wouldn’t happen in the first place?

Would I have done anything differently now?

What do you think?