EdTechTools for Collaboration & Communication

by Clemencia Acevedo

We are experiencing a time when educators are pioneering with tech tools to make a bigger difference in student learning. Educators in the United States face a variety of challenges since we serve a culturally diverse and multilingual community of students and parents. Tech tools for education offer opportunities to bypass many of our struggles, frustrations and give motivation to our students publish and share with others their finished works. Learning about and implementing tech tools in our classrooms can be challenging at the beginning but study groups such as Fordham Digital Literacies Collaborative (DLC) make that process easier.

On Nov. 3, 2016, DLC study group met via video conference to discuss Chapter 1 in Blogs, Wikis, Podcast, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classroom by Will Richardson.  Dr. Kristen H. Turner, Margarita Battle Zahl, Ivelisse E. Brannon, Lauren King, Joseph Pizzo, Gordon Van Owen, Anne Lenzini, Tricia Clarke and I talked about how we have been using tech tools covered in the chapter to support our teaching, parent engagement and professional growth. Among the tools discussed that came up were Blogs (WordPress & Google Blogger), Google Classroom, Google Hangout, Google Communities, Wikispaces,  Facebook Groups, Twitter, YouTube, Teaching Channel, Pinterest, Doctopus and Goobric.

Publishing Sites: Google Classroom, Wikispaces and WordPress and Blogger sites are useful, free or at a low cost publishing websites that allow teachers to upload, post content material and assignment information so that students can access it to finish their work from anywhere at anytime. These also allow students to publish their finished work.

twitter-study-group-jpg
Community of Authorship
community-of-authorship
Community of authorship- Google Blogger

Parent Communication: Everyone agrees that parent engagement is essential and key to student success in school. In the past years, tech developers have made tools available for teachers to easily use them to share student progress and assignments. In making parents our best partners our members use Remind, Google Hangout and Closed Facebook Groups.

communicating_with_parents_-jpg
Communication with parents

Professional Teaching Development: Teaching is an ongoing learning process and in this Digital Age educators connect, learn and collaborate with one another using Google Apps and Social Media tools. Not only do we learn about the latest useful EduApps but also how other teachers make it work in the classroom.

fb_for_collaboration-jpg
FB for collaboration among professionals
google_classroom_for_collaboration_jpg
Google Classroom for collaboration

Using tech tools for education require time, dedication and practice, however, it’s worth the effort since we connect with amazing educators who help us improve our teaching craft and stay relevant. 

Nov.3 Video Conference Full Length in YouTube

EdTechTools Resource in Google Document 

Advertisements

Highlights from our Digital Badges Hangout

Spoiler Alert: We’re launching a DLC Badge Program!

I had the pleasure of leading the DLC’s July Hangout on Digital Badges, which was an opportunity for us to consider the application of digital badges in our own classrooms, and for our use in the DLC.

Rather than selecting a book for participants to read in advance, I shared a list of online resources on digital badges, asking DLC members to read through several of interest in preparation for our conversation.

To push my own digital literacies—something DLC members do regularly—I experimented with YouTube’s annotation feature, adding annotations to the video recording of our “Hangout on Air” to highlight moments of interest. I’ll summarize a few highlights of our discussion, here:

Benefits of Digital Badges

Joe P. (8:00) shared that digital badges could be “acknowledgements of different accomplishments that the students have made throughout [the year].”

Ivelisse B. (12:15) added that we could use badges to acknowledge a range of skills:  “We could use them in such a way that some students who would otherwise not be included could be, so that you could reward students for things that aren’t necessarily on the rubric.”

I raised a question about the value of issues badges to all students for a general accomplishment (such as participation), versus more specific or advanced badges: Joe P. (15:25) suggested we recognize participation with an entry-level badge, and issue more specific badges for bigger accomplishments: “Gateway badges for participation are great, and that helps to engage, but I think we need to think in terms of how do we go beyond those for accomplishment?”

Clemencia A. (24:52) added that badges could be a positive incentive to motivate students: “I think it can work as an incentive to encourage kids to do work or to put effort in their work. I think as a teacher, it can be used as a cheap way of rewarding kids. I know some teachers have suggested buying cheap things just to recognize their work. But sometimes you know we have to be careful how much we spend. But if we create these digital badges and give it to kids as a reward for the effort that they put on their work, I think that sounds like a good idea.”

Badges for the DLC

After I previewed a few of the websites we could use to create badges (e.g. Badgelist, Credly) and shared some prototypes I’d designed with the group, we decided that we wanted to move forward with a badge program for the DLC. We discussed a few specific badges, including one to recognize attendees from our 2016 Summer Conference, and played around with the design features on a few badge websites.

badges
Badge prototypes created with Credly (no graphic design experience required).

We also shared our goals for using badges this year. Clemencia A. (41:39) plans to create and issue badges with Credly for her students.

Ivelisse B. (42:38) is interested in learning more about badges through DLC before trying it in her classroom: “I’d like to try it out first in the DLC. I think it would be helpful for me to play with it a little with the adults before I started to do it with the kids.” One of the advantages of working with a group like the DLC is that we can learn from each other’s experience with new technology, and rely on each other’s support if we choose to adopt something in our own classrooms.

Joe P. (42:51) hopes that our badge program will get more people involved in the DLC: “I like the fact that this is just an opportunity to reach out to others who are either in the DLC right now and maybe would benefit from a little recognition. The fact that we’re looking to expand. This is another little pat on the back. It’s a way to get PD credit because you can prove that you’ve been part of a group and that you’ve accomplished certain things. [ . . . ] So I think it might be beneficial if someone wants to join us, that this is another way to be recognized.”

Badge Program Update

We are currently finalizing the designs for our first set of digital badges, and setting up the program on Badgelist, which will allow us to create an invite-only group for the DLC, and designate multiple members as badge issuers. We are excited to launch our program in the next few weeks, and look forward to sharing the results of our collaborative efforts with current and future DLC members!

Reflections on a Twitter Chat

For three years, the Fordham Digital Literacies Collaborative has hosted virtual discussions, where we read, talk, and reflect on practice together.  These meetings take place via Google Hangout, and we supplement our conversations with Twitter chatting at #FordhamDLC.

This month we hosted our first Twitter chat beyond the group.  Bringing together Fordham graduate students with DLC teachers, we discussed the Connected Learning report and considered how we and our students are connected learners and how schools might foster connected learning.

This infographic started our conversation.

Connected Learning infographic

This Connected Learning Infographic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

We shared many ideas – and some fears – about connected learning.  The chat was buzzing with new connections!  Check out the entire conversation in this Storify transcript.

Making the Most of Digital Spaces in the Classroom

Our second book study discussion was on Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. We started by considering how Richardson’s work challenged or changed our thinking, and our discussion ranged from Wikipedia to teachers as users of digital media to the challenges of publishing print versions of books about digital media to the use of blogs in the classroom.

Several of us admitted that our thinking on student use of Wikipedia had changed, either because of Richardson’s book or because of other illuminating experiences with the site. We discussed the possibility of allowing students to use the sources cited on Wikipedia pages but not the page itself, but we also acknowledged that doing so deprives students of the opportunity to actually conduct their own searches for sources. Some of us are beginning to see Wikipedia through the lens of “shared knowledge” and are developing a belief that the teacher’s job is not to tell students which resources they can and can’t use but rather to teach them how to make informed decisions for themselves. Given our own use of Wikipedia to answer all sorts of questions for ourselves, barring Wikipedia in the classroom seems less tenable. Instead, we agreed that the ubiquity and undeniable usefulness of Wikipedia mean higher expectations for teachers in creating research tasks. We should not be assigning our students tasks where they are simply answering questions that others have already addressed on Wikipedia or elsewhere. Instead, we need to design student tasks that require the analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of what students find on Wikipedia.

One of our members has long advocated that writing teachers should also be writers, and we saw this theme in Richardson’s insistence that teachers seeking to incorporate digital media in the classroom should be using those tools in their own lives, too. Furthermore, teachers should be open to collaborating with and learning from their students, who frequently have more familiarity with digital media than we do. We were especially taken with Richardson’s statement that ”We can’t pretend to know everything anymore” (155). It’s humbling but also liberating to know that it’s okay to tell students that we don’t know something and to ask them to show us how it works!

We noticed several places where Richardson’s book seemed out-of-date (his beloved Google Reader no longer exists!), and this led us to a discussion of the challenges faced by authors writing about digital media in print forms. We learned about the Digital Humanities Movement and how it is challenging the field to reconsider what it means to publish, how we incorporate feedback and revision in digital spaces, and why we should trust the wisdom of the crowd.

As far as how we might incorporate these tools in our own classrooms, we talked mostly about our past and aspirational uses of student blogs. During our first meeting we talked about the reality that public writing is scary for a lot of students (and teachers!), and this theme reemerged during this discussion. We identified commenting as the first step to blogging and as a way to develop comfort with public writing. We also emphasized the need to really use blogging to its full capacity as a collaborative tool; rather than simply posting teacher questions and having students respond individually to those questions, students should be engaging in conversation with one another, while the teacher plays the role of facilitator, observer, and feedback provider.

As we move forward, we might consider:

  1. How can we develop authentic research tasks for students that require analysis, evaluation, and synthesis?
  2. What can teachers do to ensure that students are using blogs as collaborative spaces?
  3. How do we address the complex issue of audience in students’ digital writing?

One more note: At least one member of our group thought that this book did not really do Will Richardson justice. We were lucky enough to meet him at Fordham’s Summer Literacy Institute (#fordhamlit13) and to hear him speak about teachers’ ethical and pedagogical responsibility to incorporate digital media in the classroom. While Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms is an informative how-to manual for teachers, we missed his passionate voice here.

Next up: Crafting Digital Writing

Access and Audience: Two Things that Made Us Go Hmmmmm

The DLC kicked off our 2013-14 book study series with Because Digital Writing Matters (which is on sale so check it out!).  The NWP authors gave us much to talk about, and we enjoyed an hour on Google Hangout sharing thoughts about our classrooms, our students, and our own lives as digital users.

Our conversation started with a quote from the book:

“Besser (2001) argues that as we look at the content available on the Web, we see that there is a lack of local, contextual, relevant information, especially for underserved populations; that there are literacy barriers, in that  most online content is written by and for people with strong literacy skills” (p. 31).

As teachers in an urban setting, we talk a lot about access to the Internet and technological devices; this quote, however, gave us pause as we considered that those individuals without access – our students – may not even be the intended audience for digital content.  This thought troubled us on many levels, namely in issues of social justice.  Throughout the book we came time and again to two words of importance – collaboration, social.  These words imply that everyone can take part.  But can everyone take part?  Is it just access to the technology of it all that keeps individuals from participating?

Access is complex.  More complex than simply “having,” or “not having.”  The Digital Divide may be as much about prior knowledge as it is about hardware and software, and this focus on building prior knowledge is one we know well as urban educators.

Interestingly, we also responded to this question of “can everyone take part” from the perspective of introverts (which ironically, many of us may claim to be).  Is digital literacy designed for extroverts?  The fear of “going public” became a major theme in our conversation.  Digital tools allow us to make thinking public – and making thinking public is scary, especially when thoughts haven’t been fully realized.  Making writing (in “final” form) public is even scarier because ostensibly, thoughts have been carefully crafted into words.  The Internet invites critique, and it is this critique of self that inspires fear among introverts.

So what to do as teachers of writing and digital literacy?  Though we initially thought that starting small, inside the classroom, and moving to broader audiences may be the way to build confidence among our students and to scaffold them to public thinking, one member of the group turned our conversation on its head and suggested that we flip that line of thinking.  In other words, might not our students be more comfortable with nameless, faceless feedback rather than from feedback from peers that they see daily?

In thinking from the viewpoint of an adolescent (and perhaps an introvert too), we might agree.

Two questions from our conversation hang in the air:  What does access really mean?  and Small to big or flip the scaffold in writing publically?

And these questions will propel us onward with the work of the DLC.   Our next book study will focus on Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.