31 August 2013

Paedophilia, Protection, Paranoia & Parenting

A Slate article I read years ago, and this one more recently from CommonSense Media, has a habit of continually popping back into my head, every time an inevitable web scare rears its ugly head.

You see the Wild Weird Wonderful Web is an amazing place, but it is a metaphorical jungle, and the wild wild web has a lot in common with a jungle as it happens, not too many leaves, but lots of good stuff and yes, some dangers, that with a few basic precautions, can be easily avoided.

These Articles and this other more recent one, makes a few controversial but critical points, which could be broadly summarised as:

Less monitoring more mentoring

The expectation of constantly monitoring children and teenagers on the Internet is an impossible ideal. Who has time to stand over the shoulder of your kids while they are on the Web? Children’s freedom to roam in the physical world has been radically curtailed. While previous generations could ride bikes or walk to school or play outside unsupervised till dinner time, this generation is watched all the time. They have lost that thrill of being on their own until they are much older, and, for them, the Internet can provide that open space, to test and explore and try out the outside world—while being a lot less painful than ... say ... falling out of a tree, a risk that was commonplace in my childhood. There is educational value in this kind of risk, this exploration even if it is online, perhaps even because it is: a lot of the work kids do is apprehending the social world, and for them, much of this work is done online.

Less restriction more responsibility 

The important thing is to give kids the ability to handle choices, assess risks, and take strategic, or calculated risks. You want, in other words, to create the kid who can handle the Internet without you. And how can they become that kid if you are watching them all the time, if you are always hovering right there next to them? You don't just throw a 5-year-old out on the streets and tell them to figure it all out. The same is true online. But, accordingly, you can't expect to put them under surveillance and control every action they make until they're 18 and then magically assume they'll be fine at university, and the world 'beyond school' (I dislike the use of 'real world' to describe life outside school—school life is real life too!) when they haven't had any experience managing their own decisions.

Pain is a powerful teacher, not kind, but it is effective.

Parents need to face up to the idea that they cannot protect their children from every potential negative experience, this is an impossible fantasy, there is no way to seal your children off from awful or painful or frightening things. This is nothing new, think back to your own childhood, bad things happened, you got over it, hopefully you learned something from it.

A caveat...

With great power comes great responsibility, not anonymity

A huge part of responsibility means ceasing the ludicrous practice by many of allowing kids to create social networking accounts in anonymity, based on the ludicrous notion that this somehow protects the child. SERIOUSLY? All this does is remove all responsibility, and in far too many cases actively encourages irresponsibility as far too many children wreak havoc online from behind the veneer of a name like Puff the magic Dragon, with an Avatar of an aardvark or ... a pineapple ... or, you get the idea... Like no paedophile has ever thought of doing that? It is important to note here that online predators are far less likely to be paedophiles, and far more likely to be your child's own 'friends' and acquaintances. All you've done is encourage a situation where your anonymous child is forced to socialise with other anonymous people online, strangers, because they are similarly anonymous, oh, but they SAY they are your child's best friend ... . If you're going to let your kid 'play outside'; make sure they are playing as themselves, no disguises, no anonymity, their name, their face, and they should make sure to only socialise with people who do likewise.

The point, is not to create a safe world, but a safer world. 

Tim Elmore wrote an article more recently on this subject,  Three Huge Mistakes We Make Leading Kids…and How to Correct Them - a great article, and again, if you will permit me, it can be summed up similarly and thus:

Over-protection is damaging our children—

We Risk Too Little

“If you’re over 30, you probably walked to school, played on the monkey bars, and learned to high-dive at the public pool. If you’re younger, it’s unlikely you did any of these things. Yet, has the world become that much more dangerous? Statistically, no. But our society has created pervasive fears about letting kids be independent—and the consequences for our kids are serious.” (Gever Tully)

The truth is, kids need to fall a few times to learn it is normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. Pain is actually a necessary teacher. Over-protecting our young people has had an adverse effect on them, we are failing miserably at preparing them for a world that will not be risk-free.

We Rescue Too Quickly

This generation of young people has not developed some of the life skills kids did thirty years ago because adults swoop in and take care of problems for them. We remove the need for them to navigate hardships. This may sound harsh, but rescuing and over-indulging our children is one of the most insidious forms of child abuse. It’s “parenting for the short-term” and it sorely misses the point of leadership [parenting]—to equip our young people to do it without help. Just like muscles atrophy inside of a cast due to disuse, their social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual muscles can shrink because they’re not exercised.

We Rave too Easily

Praise effort and persistence, not ability. Carol Dweck (Mindset) tells us that our affirmation of kids must target factors in their control. When we say “you must have worked hard,” we are praising effort, which they have full control over. It tends to elicit more effort. When we praise ability 'you're smart/clever/awesome!', it may provide a little confidence at first but ultimately causes a child to work less. They say to themselves, “If it doesn’t come easy, I don’t want to do it.”

A helpful metaphor when considering this challenge is inoculation. Inoculation injects a vaccine, which actually exposes you to a dose of the very disease your body must learn to overcome. It’s a good thing. Only then do we develop an immunity to it. Similarly, our kids must be inoculated with doses of hardship, delay, challenges and inconvenience to build the strength to stand in them.

So let them fail, let them fall, and let them fight for what they really value. If we treat our kids as fragile, they will surely grow up to be fragile adults. We must prepare them for the world that awaits them. Our world needs resilient adults not fragile ones.

"We need to let our kids fail at 12 - which is far better than at 42. We need to tell them the truth that the notion of 'you can do anything you want' is not necessarily true."

05 August 2013

Take a minute (or 2) to pick up an ICT skill or 3

"We know what we know, we know that there are things we do not know, and we know that there are things we don't know we don't know"

Donald Rumsfeld (4 Sept 2002) (Woodward, 2004: 171) The initial insight is reportedly Arabic.

You don't know what you don't know - obvious but especially important in ICT, where knowing a certain skill can be the difference between wrestling with a computer for hours, or doing it in minutes with the right tool in the right way.

"He that knows not,

and knows not that he knows not

is a fool.

Shun him

He that knows not,

and knows that he knows not

is a pupil.

Teach him.

He that knows,

and knows not that he knows

is asleep

Wake him.

He that knows,

and knows that he knows

is a teacher.

Follow him."

(Arabic proverb)

NEIGHBOUR R (1992) The Inner Apprentice London; Kluwer Academic Publishers. p.xvii

But, the common cry is 'I DON'T HAVE TIME' sure - but and it's a big but - you do make time for things that matter, right?

Well, ICT skills matter, and using these minimax* resources, you don't need much time either:


Read more on 'Knowing and not knowing' http://www.doceo.co.uk/tools/knowing.htm#ixzz27LWRmy5V

*minimax—minimum effort, maximum result.

04 August 2013

To YouTube or not to YouTube. That is the question.

Video, ViewTube, Viewoogle & Vimeo

Picasa and Google Doc/Drive Videos are my preferred medium for video use and the sharing of video. However YouTube is still the number one video viewing option on the web, and we'd be mad to ignore it. There are some good reasons for using YouTube with your students, what are those? Well there are some times when utilsing your YouTube account is handy, for teachers as well as students. When? I’ll tell you when ... Firstly though—

Why is YouTube a problem? 

Mainly because of its exposure - as the number one video sharing tool on the planet it is the best way to get your work seen by as many eyeballs as possible - which, in theory at least, could be a good thing, if that is what you want (see later note on this) but for most educational purposes there is a distinct discomfort with that kind of exposure when kids are learning, and wrestling with learning - YouTube can be a cruel place, and you are in danger of being exposed to a LOT of undesirables if you just put it out there - especially if you allow viewers to leave comments, and likes and dislikes, this can be potentially destructive for anyone, never mind our students.

Unwanted/inappropriate advertising

One of the major drawbacks of using YouTube is working against Google’s determination to make money out of it - namely pushing advertising at the eyeballs that are so interested in your video. Usually the ‘mosaic’ viewers will see at the end is harmless, but the problem is that you have no control over this (You do with Vimeo though). Nor do you have control over the ‘recommended’ videos that appear in the panel at the end. So you have to ask yourself - are you prepared to take that risk? This will very much depend on the age of the kids you are directing to watch the video. These adverts are becoming increasingly more invasive. There are ways around this which I will outline below, but the fact is most of our kids are inclined to just upload and not to think even once, never mind twice about the settings that are necessary to mitigate these problems. If you want your kids to use YouTube, you need to make sure you consider how to use it properly.

So, are the ways around these undesirable elements? I think so.

Use YouTube via a Google Site

Inserting a YouTube video into a Google Site effectively bypasses the advertising - at the end of the video there is no mosaic, there is a tiny YouTube logo, which will take them to YouTube with a click, but lets face it, they can do that by just typing ‘YouTube’ into the browser anyway.


www.viewpure.com allows you to remove all the clutter around the sides, but you still get a ‘mosaic’ at the end...

Why would you use YouTube?


If you want maximum exposure, you WANT the publicity - YouTube is the way to achieve this. Maybe your students have put together a stunning short film designed to move as many people as possible to action - well YouTube is the place to put it if you hope to get as many eyeballs as possible, and the motivation of ‘views’ and ‘likes’ is undeniable - BUT and it’s a big but, kids need to be aware of the measures they have to take to protect their fragile egos. My advice? Maybe disable comments (although this means they won't get an positive feedback either). Certainly look very closely at the options before (or after - it’s never too late to change!) publishing, and make sure they have considered the implications of the various options - there aren’t that many.

Google Presentations

Uploading via YouTube is the only avenue currently available to students (and staff) who want to use their own videos in a Google Presentation.

Video for viewing on an iOS Device (iPad etc)

If you’re creating a ‘web log’ (blog) with blogger, using video other than YouTube is annoyingly fiddly - something that will no doubt improve - but for now ... Even if you do manage to get it to work without YouTube it won’t display on an iOS device. You can use Vimeo to get around this but it’s a little complicated (can anything BE a ‘little’ complicated? It involves ‘embedding’ using HTML code - se what I mean?). Using YouTube for Blogger is relatively easy - BUT, and this leads to my next point..

Easy Export

The way YouTube is integrated into the actual operating system of the Mac and all iOS devices really makes it an option for sharing that you have to consider - you know your students will. It’s there, it’s obvious - so why would you not use it? Well the reasons above for a start - but also, increasingly our students will need to store exported video in a format that is owned by them, that is not stuck in YouTube, or technically owned by YouTube. An actual video file sitting safe and sound in their own drive, where it can be uploaded, edited, repurposed however, and whenever they want is far more preferable. Downloading video from YouTube is a far from a straightforward exercise*,

But ... isn't sharing video direct to YouTube an easy option? 

Yes, as long as it is short. Is it easy? Yes. But I would advise you to use it for more adhoc use, ie less ‘essential’ more temporal video - maybe sharing a work in progress, a simple observation, an interesting but not pivotal moment. Or as a backup plan of other methods fail - you can download it from YouTube later, albeit at a less than stellar quality.

So I only use YouTube when I am convinced that I have exhausted all my other options, these are, specifically, in order of preference:

Google Drive/Docs Video

* Use a site like www.dirpy.com or even better the FireFox Add-on ‘Easy YouTube Video Downloader’.

01 August 2013

A Framework for Transformational Technology - SAMMS

Five Transformational Triggers for the Integration of Digital Technology

Transformative applications of digital technology are the holy grail of educators spanning the globe, and yet it is far from easy to achieve...

Moving from the Mundane to the Magnificent

Frameworks like SAMR and RAT are incredibly helpful here, but we still need a framework to assist with the top levels of redefinition/transformation of learning through effective uses of digital technologies. SAMMS is a framework that attempts assist with this, by determining exactly what the 'magic ingredients' are that move tech use from the mundane to the magnificent.

Determining these 'ingredients' starts from a position of describing what it is about digital technologies that make them unique, transformative—what is it they facilitate that cannot be replicated with traditional tools? Exactly how do pixels out perform paper? I've been reading a LOT about ICT integration over the last four years in my pursuit of a Master's degree, and throughout my readings I noticed a pattern forming—certain aspects of ICTs that were deemed to make a significant difference in teaching and learning, or to use the academic vernacular, 'unique affordances' ...

So what are the transformative, unique affordances of digital technologies?

Five features or facets of pixels that out perform paper -  (SAMMS):

Situated practice (work anywhere)
Accessibility (access to information)
Multi-modality (screen centred creations)
Mutability (provisionality/fluidity/malleability)
Social networking (syncronous/asyncronous people power) 

I've expanded on these categories in another post, here I want to consider what happens when you cross reference these with what I believe are the 5 core digital domains of ICT:

Text | Image | Audio | Video | Data

By all means consume, but the exciting stuff happens when creating‚ of course you can't have one without the other, you can't connect the dots, unless you have dots to connect... But if you work in any of these domains and also exploit as many of the aspects of ICT that are unique as you can, you create transformative experiences—the more you of these you exploit, the more transformational it becomes. And when you start merging these elements it gets really exciting, eg situated use, means you can access multimodal content anywhere, sharing with others, collaborate, and even revise your content as you go, on your own or with others.

Take the domain of text, most likely this means word processing, (although many typographers and graphic designers might argue with you about that one) but what does working with text look like when it is...

Situated Text

Everywhere is here. Exploiting the ability for ICTs to make the boundaries between school and home permeable, means that your students don't need 'homework' they just continue with their classwork—well that's what we do in the 'real world' right? I take my work home but it's not 'homework', it's work, some of which I am doing at home, and will continue at work tomorrow. If you're using mobile devices this kind of 'situated practice' becomes even more transformative, with kids adding/editing/tweaking on the bus/train as inspiration occurs, or as research based revelations are revealed.

Accessible Text

Reading and researching the world of the written world has always been more than a little overwhelming (if you've forgotten how overwhelming mountains of data can look, you need to visit a bigger library). Thank to the advent of super fast search, all of that data has become more accessible, accessible in a way that is transformative. Teach your kids some basic search skills and they can leverage the unprecedented level of global access to expertise that is unique in history that we now take for granted.

MultiModal Text

Now at first glance this might seem a little contradictory, like, if it's multimodal (image, video, audio), it's not just text, but leveraging other modes of media in conjunction with text is again transforming the ways we consume and create with text. As an example, I now regularly 'consume' media I have not got time to read on paper/screen by listening to podcasts as I commute. Students can use text to speech features to hear how their writing sounds, or to motivate reluctant readers, who may well be more inclined to listen than decode. Taking snapshots of passages in books, posters, flyers, and of course screen shots of inspirational material—quotes, slogans, titles.

What this is really about is a new kind of literacy as the multimedia devices that now are ubiquitous in our worlds mean that speech and writing are already being pushed to the margins of and replaced by image and others. The once dominant page, especially in terms of the newspaper and the book, is giving way to the screen (Kress, 2005). Let's encourage our kids to illustrate, accentuate, emphasise and embellish their text with image, with sound, with moving images and even video. Generally, I assume that when someone makes the claim that an 'artefact' is 'multimodal', that it's 'multimedia' ie, combining text, image and video, although technically using text and image together is multimodal, I would argue this is only true if the images are illustrations, not just decorations, that's a critical distinction. The imagery should be being used to communicate, to add more meaning, not just make the things look pretty.

Mutable Text

This is no brainer—even the most tech phobic will have to concede that the mutability of screen text is revolutionary compared to paper. Although, it is depressing how little this incredible capability is embraced by teachers—editing and revision can be transformational, creative experiences thanks to the provisionality of pixels.

Many teachers may yearn nostalgically for the 'good old days' of handwriting & cursive; and while that skill has it's place, it's hard to argue its benefits if the goal is improved writing in terms of making meaning. Revising text that is restricted to (often barely legible) handwritten annotations squeezed into margins or between lines is clearly inferior when entire paragraphs need moving, adjusting, inserting; with edits of this kind the student in question would need to literally rewrite the entire piece. Hardly motivating or conducive to reflective practice.

Cutting/pasting looking up meanings and synonyms, proofreading, all amplify what we can do with text, but transforming means exploiting things like undo button to encourage kids to take more risks; the save as, revert or history options to manage multiple versions of documents; the effective use of styles so that formatting changes can be made to an entire document with one click; smarter uses of (well designed) templates; grab snippets of text from multiple sources and from multiple perspectives, and mash, mix, mend, and remix them into something unique.

Social Text

We are social and of course nothing beats the power of social connection in the classroom face to face and the powerful synergy that creates. But with the advent of web 2.0 this conversation can continue beyond the classroom and more importantly beyond the strictures of the 45 minute period lesson where you will inevitably struggle to converse with every student on a meaningful level. Now, instead of "setting homework" students can continue with their classwork at home, only now they can collaborate online with you/with their peers who can comment/reply/respond facilitating a virtual conversation through the medium of digital text.

Since students can express their thoughts without interruption, they have more time to reflect and respond (Shea, 2003). This ‘peer-based learning’ is characterised by “a context of reciprocity”, (Ito et al, 2008, p 39) where participants don't just contribute, but also comment on, and contribute to the content of others. This transformational practice is already becoming seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the classroom so that dialogue and pupil collaboration can be enhanced and extended, (Garrison, 2004) a cooperative combination of multiple interactions, which is indicative of a new, collaborative pedagogical practice.

Triggers + Domains = Transformation

So, there you have it, transformational practice and here I have only described how this could apply in just one of the five domains. A similar level of transformation can be experienced by the judicious application of effective technology in transformational ways within each of the five domains, across domains and combining several if not all of the triggers.

How do the five transformational tech triggers transform the use of image? audio? video? data? How does this change when we work within and across these domains in ways that are social, accessible, multi-modal, exploiting mutability and situated (can be done almost anywhere)?

How transformational can our use of ICTs be when we work across domains? Merging text, with image; image with audio; video with data; all of them with all of the others?

Aiming for transformative applications of technology can be daunting, if so, it's a good idea to start with amplified practice and add the 5 elements and 5 domains gradually, like ingredients to a cake mixture, the more you add, the more amplified it gets until it becomes transformative. In my experience you will often find that your students will move from amplified into transformative practice quite naturally.

Let your students show how transformative technology can be. I think you'll find that—regardless of your own expertise—the synergy of a teacher's pedagogical expertise, content knowledge, and experience, combined with the natural confidence of 'digital natives' is intrinsically transformative. 

5 Tech Triggers + 5 Tech Domains = 
Transformed edTech