Categories
Education Media Tech & Social Media

[Still] struggling to get our head around social media in schools…

In February this year, I had the opportunity to ask over 1000 senior students from about forty schools across Australia, which statement best summed up how their school taught social media. I’m assuming schools would do this, as I can definitely recall a subject called Media Studies when I was at school back in the nineties…

I asked…

Which of the following BEST describes the manner in which social media is taught in your school?

a: It isn’t really

b: We only really get told what NOT to do

c: We are educated as to the power of social media to help us learn in school

d: We are educated as to the power of social media to help us learn, connect with others and develop a positive digital footprint.

This was the response [CLICK ON THE GRAPH TO ENLARGE]:

I then asked them whether or not they thought a Google (or your preferred search engine) search would make or break them, if a prospective employer chose to search for them online…

This was their response:

I think these two graphs present an interesting stimulus for a chat about how we approach social media in schools…

  1. Only around 70 senior students out of >1000 thought that an online search would stand them in good stead. This is a worry, as employers have been using online searches since the days of MySpace (remember that??)
  2. Over a quarter didn’t know what an online search would throw up.
  3. The vast majority of students thought an online search wouldn’t be an issue as there would be very little – if anything – about them online.

I wonder if we’ve taught kids that the opposite of a negative digital footprint is to have no digital footprint?

I also wonder if that’s because we haven’t really taught kids about social media. One of my most popular posts of all time was one I wrote back in 2012 called Driving Down Social Media Way in which I asked readers to imagine that we taught kids to drive the way we teach them about social media. In short:

1. Driving lessons would be taught by adults (teachers or parents) with little or no experience of driving.

Sure they may know of certain brands of cars or be aware of some of their capabilities. They may know it is illegal to speed or drive without a seatbelt, but in reality they have spent little time behind the wheel.

2. Driving lessons would only focus on what not to do.

An average driving lesson would entail students being preached to about the dangers of speeding, drinking driving or not wearing a seatbelt. There may be a little advice on how to keep you and your car safe, eg. regular service checks, installing an alarm and NEVER allowing a stranger to get into your car would all constitute sound advice.

3. Driving lessons would NEVER take place in an actual car.

In fact cars would be banned in the majority of driving schools. Students would be able to take notes, draw pictures or even present a PowerPoint on how to drive, but they would only be able to put these lessons into practice once they were out of sight of an adult.

It seems little has changed – which is unbelievable silly ridiculous bordering on negligent.

If you have the time or the inclination, here is a little spiel I gave in 2016 to some teachers on the subject… (it’s one of my favourite talks actually and please note the kids’ survey questions in this talk were from 2016, not the ones I cite in this blog post).

 

Categories
Social Commentary

Are You Too Busy For a Thumbs Up?

This was originally written for my regular Generation Next Column. It has a handful of comments there that you might like to read.

My 5-year-old son attends swimming lessons each and every Sunday. It’s a busy pool with multiple classes going on at once.

During lessons parents sit around the pool and watch their offspring splash around, offering words of encouragement, the occasional ‘thumbs up’ and many smiles of pride.

You can picture it can’t you? It was pretty much the same as when we learnt to swim… way back when.

However if you’ve actually taken a child to swimming lessons recently you’d know that the picture I’ve painted is actually a fake.

In my experience, parents aren’t offering words of encouragement, thumbs up or even smiles. They’re staring at a screen reading banal Facebook updates, answering ‘important’ emails that simply couldn’t wait until Monday or just surfing mindlessly.

I wonder why?

Have we really convinced ourselves that we are that busy that we can’t devote 30mins of our attention to our kids? Heck even 15mins would be good!

How many of these parents have to lie when their kids ask them, “Did you see me?”

How many of these kids finish a lap to look for a thumbs up, only to find their parents’ thumbs otherwise engaged?

I know this might seem like a trivial matter, but I wonder if it’s just the tip of a much larger iceberg?

I’d be interested to hear what you think… am I worrying about nothing?

Ipad Parents

Categories
Change Education Leadership Tech & Social Media

When teachers say they’ve not heard of Sir Ken

A couple of weeks ago, I asked a room full of Australian teachers if they’d heard of Sir Ken Robinson. Sir Ken - Do you know who I am

One person tentatively raised their hand – and even then, he didn’t seem too sure.

I was seriously taken aback, not least because I use Sir Ken’s name in some of my promotional material!

Dan has appeared alongside the likes of…

But it got me thinking…  these teachers really haven’t even heard of him?

And just to be clear, I’m not saying we should all be kneeling at the altar of Sir Ken. Whether you agree or disagree with his arguments, hang off his every word or are a bit over the whole creativity thing is really beside the point.

The point is you’ve probably heard of him. But what about your colleagues?

If you’ve landed on this post courtesy of Twitter, I’m betting that you think I’ve made this up – after all Sir Ken has over 200,000 followers, most of them teachers. As if a teacher – let alone a room full of teachers – wouldn’t have heard of him. That’d be like Luke Skywalker not being au fait with Yoda’s body of work. luke and yoda

But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Twitter can be something of an echo chamber – that is – pretty much everyone is saying the same things about education over and over. With the constant reinforcement it’s easy to start thinking that this is how all educators think.

I believe that Twitter and other social media forums are the real drivers of professional learning – for those who connect – but what about the vast majority of teachers who aren’t connected in this way?

How do you spread the word to your less connected colleagues – in a way that genuinely influences the practice of your organisation?

And just in case you don’t know Sir Ken, check out this talk. And by the way, I’ve just been confirmed as a keynote speaker alongside him next year! 🙂

Categories
Education Tech & Social Media

Driving down Social Media Way

This was originally published in my column for the Generation Next newsletter.

Another week, another call for social media to be part of the Australian schooling curriculum. 

For what it’s worth I wholeheartedly endorse any approach that is more proactive and meaningful to the way we currently address social media in schools.

Imagine for a second if we taught our teenagers to drive a car in the same manner we attempt to teach them about social media.

1. Driving lessons would be taught by adults (teachers or parents) with little or no experience of driving.

Sure they may know ofcertain brands of cars or be aware of some of their capabilities. They may know it is illegal to speed or drive without a seatbelt, but in reality they have spent little time behind the wheel.

2. Driving lessons would only focus on what not to do.

An average driving lesson would entail students being preached to about the dangers of speeding, drinking driving or not wearing a seatbelt. There may be a little advice on how to keep you and your car safe, eg. regular service checks, installing an alarm and NEVER allowing a stranger to get into your car would all constitute sound advice.

3. Driving lessons would NEVER take place in an actual car.

In fact cars would be banned in the majority of driving schools. So students would be able to take notes, draw pictures or even present a PowerPoint on how to drive, but they would only be able to put these lessons into practice once they were out of sight of an adult.

It’s time for politicians, teachers and parents to stop burying their heads in the sand when it comes to social media.

The fact is, social media isn’t technology in the lives of our kids, but an essential aspect of their world. Social media isn’t ‘new’ anymore.

We can’t continue pretending that it is, and using this as an excuse for not addressing it.

And by addressing it I do not mean banning it!

Categories
Education

Three Things That Could Get You Sacked

(But do them anyway!)

1. Stop Planning

Not entirely, obviously. But relax a little. Give your students some choice in what they do, how they do it, when they do it and with whom they will work. Try having students design the way in which they will demonstrate their understanding. Or if you’re feeling very brave, have your students design the questions they have to explore. Now more than ever we need people who can ask the right questions.

Google Project Based Learning or check out Design Thinking to get your creative juices flowing…

2. Stop Grading

Grading kids’ work destroys their innate desire to learn for the sake of learning. It eats away at their ability to think creatively or critically for fear of getting it ‘wrong.’ Stop it. Most guidelines tell us we need to report to parents via a grade twice A YEAR – not twice a day.

For more of my thoughts on grades, check this out. 

3. Encourage Your Kids to Chat Online to Strangers

I’m fed up with adults hammering kids for ‘inappropriate’ use of technology and in particular – social media. Teachers can’t teach it (literally – social media is banned in far too many schools) and parents won’t talk about it – they plead ignorance. So how is it fair that we then berate our kids when they inevitably stuff up?

Not only should we be teaching kids about how to use social media appropriately, but by creatively incorporating it into our teaching, we can show them why it isn’t just for posting nude pics, or disparaging comments.

Learning about Antartica? Skype with a scientist in Antartica.

Encourage social action by building a webpage or social media campaign.

I call this Pedagogy with Purpose.

The basis for these ideas come from self determination theory that says that for kids to be genuinely engaged they need to be intrinsically motivated – and for this to be the case, kids need a sense of autonomy (stop planning), mastery (stop grading) & purpose (chatting online to strangers).

Categories
Change Leadership

When’s the right time for change?

I was asked a great question on Twitter this week in response to a tweet I put out as part of research for a piece I’m writing.

I’m not sure there is a simple answer to Kimberley’s question.

But for what it’s worth here’s my two cents…

I don’t believe there is any gain to be made from change for change’s sake, but we do need to guard against adopting the “if it’s not broke – don’t fix it” mentality, as too often this breeds complacency or apathy.

There’s no doubt that an injection of “fresh” or new ideas can invigorate a school. And if a school is struggling (in any capacity) this can provide the impetus for positive change to occur.

However on the flip side of this, teachers are the experts on their school. Every school has its own idiosyncrasies and culture that only staff who have been there a long time genuinely appreciate.

So I certainly wouldn’t advocate mandatory “circulation” of staff or principals.

We need to constantly evaluate what we are doing in our schools from a wider perspective than just enrolments, attendance rates and examination results, whilst at the same time critically evaluating the latest trend being touted as the saviour of education. To do this teachers need to be empowered to make such evaluations.

I believe every school should have an “innovation” unit. Staff who are empowered to research and implement fresh ideas. This group could be staffed on a rotational basis to ensure that teachers had equal opportunities to contribute to innovation in their school. @Steve_Collis or @Stephen_H would be good people to chat to about this if you’re keen to explore this idea.

Peer-coaching is another model we could look at to invigorate or share ideas without the need for staff turnover rates to soar. @cpaterso or @benpaddlejones would be my go-to people here.

I’d recommend sharing ideas with colleagues from other schools as well as with your own staff – it’s not often we get to see what is going on in classrooms or schools other than our own – Teachmeets are a great way of doing this of course.

Other than that, Twitter is a great source of ideas, thoughts and accounts of literally 100s of thousands of teachers’ experiences. (As well as offering you the opportunity to find out what Kim Kardashian has for breakfast).

Categories
Media Wellbeing Youth

The Kids Are Alright – In the National Times

Fed up with the constant media attacks on our youth, I sat down at the laptop and wrote this. And the National Times decided to publish it…

Another day, another media attack on the youth of Australia. This time it’s the turn of Channel Nine’s A Current Affair, to have a report, “All parents should see.” It claims to show, “What your kids are getting up to.”

A quick look at the headlines in the last six months would lead you to believe that most of our youth are alcohol fuelled members of fight clubs, who in between cyber-bullying and sexting, rate their sexual partners’ prowess via root rating sites. How teens find the time to do all of this in between planking, dealing drugs and causing chaos on our roads in their P-plated cars is anyone’s guess.  Read my full article at the National Times

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Categories
Media Youth

What is it with Rs in Education… This week: Root Rating?!?!

The (anti) social media habits of schoolkids have taken up a lot of newspaper and online column space this week in Australia. The latest craze to take hold of our teens (doesn’t it seem like only last month it was planking?) is to “rate roots” via ingeniously titled “Root Rater” pages on Facebook.

For the benefit of my international readers, “rooting” is the uniquely Australian euphemism for getting to know someone very well.

The accepted protocol seems to be: root, rate and add a comment if further detail is required. Unsurprisingly, in the examples in the media this week,  this detail is not often complimentary. As well as identifying some schools where root-rating was prevalent, a fair amount of questions were asked as to what schools could do (if anything) to address the problem.

The public reaction has ranged from the nonplussed to the extreme – here’s my take on the reaction…

1. It did NOT happen in your day – Too many people equate Facebook with the note that was passed around class. Granted the behaviour is the same, but the consequences are far more extreme. One example of such a site had 1200 members and this does not account for the people who have search for and found such sites since the media exposure. And of course, unlike notes, the “Net” cannot be thrown away. Interestingly, the people who compare social media sites with notes range from (obviously) technophobe parents to (bizarrely) people who are well versed in social media.

2. Kids WON’T report it – Children don’t report bullying. The reasons are too varied and complex to go into here, but it’s safe to say, if kids won’t report what may be considered “standard” playground bullying, they are even less likely to report incidents of being the subject of Root Rater sites. There is another factor at play as well, which is unique to cyber-bullying; and that is that kids believe if they report cyber-bullying, the technology will be taken away from them. Despite it being the source of such angst, they are more worried about losing access to the phones or computers that connects them with their peers.

3. Ignorance is NEGLIGENCE – I’m not saying parents need to be able to set up a wireless network, rather they have to get their heads out of the sand and understand that kids need guidance on the net, just as they do in other areas of life (if not more so). Putting on NetNanny or similar software is only a superficial (and probably the least effective) step. Parents should be aware what, why, how and when their kids interact with the Net. Parents should help their kids navigate the online world, just as they do the offline world… and young teens should not have a laptop or phone in their room… bottom line.

4. Social Media is NOT the enemy – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, in most schools are banned. If we cannot access them in school, how can we demonstrate the amazing potential of social media? How can we teach kids how to be global online citizens? By banning them in schools we further reinforce the notion that we, as adults think social media is not important, or just a waste of time. With regard to our kids, it is not the tools that are the problem, it is the way in which they are being used. Why not engage kids in school by using these tools for good… examples like The Invisible Hearts Project or How to Build a School in 3 Hours would be good starting points to build incredible learning experiences.

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