Yes, You Can Showcase Students and Their Work Online

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It is often used as an excuse as to why we shouldn’t post videos of student learning or start a class twitter account. It is good to understand your jurisdiction’s FOIP Consent form in order to know what parents are permitting you to do with their child’s information. This is all the more relevant in today’s digitally connected society where the internet is a ubiquitous public space that we frequently utilize for teaching and learning.

Before we look at the FOIP form, it is important to note that they form is only the one step in the process. You must inform parents on how you are using their child’s information on the internet. You don’t need a new form every time, but if you decide halfway through the year to do a project that will go on YouTube, you need to let the parents know. Nobody likes surprises, and informing them gives them the option to back out, which is their prerogative.

Here are the elements of the FOIP form from Edmonton Public School that deal with posting information online:

“[School] is requesting your permission to use your child’s personal information (i.e., image, grade and/or name, etc.) in public venues or on the internet where the general public may have access to the information in order to communicate with parents, the community and the general public.”

Notice that this statement says that images and/or names can be used on the internet to communicate to the general public. Further to this point, it also states on the form:

“Examples might include, but not limited to:

-posting pictures, videos, podcasts or presentations online

-accessing and posting information to public websites or social media applications (e.g., Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and other emerging technologies)”

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It is imperative that you know the purpose for posting online. You could have students make videos of themselves reading stories and post it on YouTube. But why use YouTube? If the video’s intended audience is just you and the parent, it may be better to upload it to a Drive folder. If your class has a message for the community, then YouTube may be the best medium.

And this has to be stated again. You need to let parents know if you are using web apps or posting anything will use the student’s information. This can be done through a newsletter, class blog, Schoolzone (in EPSB) or any other medium that you use to communicate with parents.

Here is a great video to recap (and the acting is fantastic):

The FOIP Consent form ensures that we are abiding by Alberta’s FOIP Act. The Act isn’t preventative legislation. It instructs us on what we need to do when we need to use personal information in order to do our duties as teachers in today’s connected, online world. The Act and our FOIP Consent form ensure that we, as a public institution, are being responsible with the information parents are giving us.

If you really want some good reading, check out the full Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Edmonton Public Goes Google

It’s official! Edmonton Public Schools is dropping Outlook and migrating to Gmail.

This migration is bigger than just email. Currently, teachers who have been taking advantage of the Google Apps for Education have had to live in two worlds. By moving to Gmail, all those apps will be at our fingertips, easier to access and easier to use. It is hard to imagine or predict all the externalities (unintended consequeses, both positive and negative) that will occur from the transition.

Not everyone is happy with the move. One observation is that those who are unhappy about the change are typically people whose work flow is governed by Outlook. Generally, this is refering to the adminstrative branches of the District. Most teachers do not use email to guide thier work and routines, and only use the calendars to book rooms/equipement. For them, the change over should be relatively smooth. However, the adminsitrative positions that rely on Outlook to organize tasks and communicate through email and calendars may find the change a little daunting.

Its not easy getting a District of 8,000 or so employees to willingly and smoothly adopt a new email system, particularly when we have had the old one for as long as most can remember. However, Terry Korte and the TIPS team have created a Going Google Site with manuals, FAQ, professional learning oppotunies and videos to help people through the transition. They are also organizing Google Guides, teachers and/or admin based at each school who will act as a resource person for the staff. These Guides will be the first people in the District to be migrated to gmail so that they can help the rest of thier staff during the “Go Live” phase in May, 2013.

Google has created a great document and video called Life After Outlook that shows where the things you did in Outlook are located in Gmail and may aliviate some fears. The document is from 2011, so it is missing some of the locations of the new formatting, but most of it is pretty much the same. If anyone finds an updated version or something similar and newer, please post it in the comments below.

This is a big step for Edmonton Public Schools. Along with the recent proliferation of Chromebooks in the district, and the number of students who already use Google Apps for Education fluently, this could potentially lead to a big step forward in increasing tech use in the classroom.

Next step? Increase bandwidth 🙂

Privatization of Education

Over the last few months, there have been a lot of conversations about the role of iPads in education, the shifting role of publishing companies as textbooks become obsolete. and the drive to use Web 2.0 apps as evidence of 21st Century learning. However, often the conversation is ignoring the purpose of these new technologies and the pedagogical implications. My colleague, Will Rice, sent me an excellent article, “7 Key Questions to Ask About Ed Technology, Online Learning,” that encapsulates the discussions we have been having in our office lately. Looks like we aren’t the only ones with some serious questions.

In a perfect world, tax-payer dollars would go toward the creation of public domain, educationally sound apps. I know that governments do not like to share with other governments, but imagine a world in which the apps we created were not only aligned to our curriculum and free to all our students, but also to free to all education jurisdictions globally. In this perfect world, other jurisdictions will also create high quality free apps that they would allow us to use. And given that the app was free, there would be no copyright/pirating issues (which many schools are currently forced to do if they wish to have students share class sets of iPads), nor would there be a need for collecting personal information or selling ad space. These apps, funded by the public purse would belong to the public and available for public consumption.

Unfortunately, as our slow reacting bureaucracies push us to be 21st Century teachers without providing us 21st Century tools, I fear that we are beginning to see the privatization of education – especially when we see the advent of learning analytics in the very near future.

Should Kids Be Driving Alone? – Response

I so often hear “teachers should…” when it comes to digital citizenship and 21stC literacy, and yet are not given the tools/resources/permission to actually implement the desired change. If we truly want our students to have the competencies of an educated Albertan, we must advocate for systemic change.

I taught Social 30-1 at a local high school this summer and it took every ounce of tech skill I had to get my students tweeting, blogging and using Google Docs… and I am an Emerging Technology Consultant. Unless we commit to making it easier for students and teachers to use technology, both at the local and provincial leadership levels, I think many of our efforts will be counter productive. I’m not just talking about hardware, its re-framing what we assess and the data we collect, re-structuring timetables and subjects, re-evaluating teaching contracts and professional collaboration, and removing the legal and technical barriers to online access.

For the Albertans reading this, does anyone know if the new School Act and TQS will make it easier for teachers to enter the digital world with our students, or will it create more barriers so our students will have to drive it alone?

— taken from a comment I made on the ERLC Social Media Group

How Do We Assess 21stC Literacy?

I spent the better part of the last two days listening in on schools discuss the results of their standardized tests – PATs, HLATs, GLAs, Diplomas. There were some excellent conversations around the room. The Assessment Team did a great job organizing the day and leading Literacy Leadership Teams through copious amounts of charts and tables. They made it easy to understand the data we were looking at and gave the teams time to work with the information they had before them. What was interesting to me was that, as the District focuses on 21st Century Literacy, we still put a lot of emphasis on tests that measure 20th Century skills.

I support the Data Days, and I believe teachers and students should be looking at data to inform instruction and learning. If we truly value the competencies of and educated Albertan, as presented by Alberta Education, then lets be sure to include tools to measure these competencies when we look at data. Having said that, I don’t claim to know what tools would be effective to measure these things. I think we have a lot of work to do to find some really good assessment strategies for these skills. I would love to hear how others are assessing 21st Century Literacy in their classes.

The Social Relationships of Our Vision 2020 Students

Recently, the PEW Institute asked a variety of Internet Stakeholders to look ahead to the year 2020 and predict if the internet will have had a positive or negative impact on their social relationships. I was intrigued by this notion because there has been a lot of discussion in the district around Edmonton Public Schools’ Vision 2020. It is important that we consider the completion of high school not as a “finish line” but the start of the rest of their lives.

The results of The Future of Social Relationships survey showed that 84% of respondants agreed that the internet will be a “mostly positive force on [thier] social world.” The highlight of the study for me, however, were the comments that took a realist approach. Here are some examples:

“Certainly both good things and bad have happened to relationships because of the internet. I believe, though, that overall, the increasing ease of connection with people at a distance is improving social relations much more than the occasional gaffe or thoughtless act is harming them. Some discretion about what to do and say online is necessary, but that’s simply a social more that needs to be worked out and understood – the tools are advancing quicker than the social etiquette around them. There will always be people who damage their relationships spectacularly, and if the internet were not available to them, they would do it another way. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.”—Rachel S. Smith, vice president, NMC Services, New Media Consortium

“Context matters. It’s not just the internet. It’s the pace of change, the pace of life, the pace of work – all of which are accelerating, in part because of the net. But norms take longer to develop than technologies. And where you stand depends on your circumstances. For me, the net is a wonderful learning network and for some it is alifeline and for others it is a tether to their boss or a source of harmful misinformation, disinformation, and distraction. Since when is the world starkly divided into either-or alternatives? For many, life will be alienated, rushed, and confusing because of theirinvolvement online. Others will choose or will learn or be trained to cope with dangers of an always-on lifestyle.”—Howard Rheingold, visiting lecturer, Stanford University, lecturer,Tools forand Smart Mobs

It would be interesting to see what the results would be if we polled teachers and administrators in Edmonton Public. It would be an important question because as we consider using Social Networking in our classrooms, we should know how we feel about it’s impact on our lives. Your response will determine your approach to social networking. You may want to teach kids online social skills to protect them, or you may want to harness Social Media to empower them. Either approach is good for our students.

The Future of Social Relations: PDF Full Version / Short Overview

Re-defining Literacy

How would you define literacy? It may seem simple at first – the ability to read and write – but given the complexities of the modern world, this definition has become antiquated. New skill sets and new forms of expression mixed with the freedom of ease of publication has changed what it means to be literate.  A variety of web searches have produced an entire spectrum of interpretations, but I have yet to find a satisfactory definition. I’m going to add my understanding of literacy to the milieu. Now I don’t have a PhD in English, but the very fact that I can post this without anyone vetting it is one of the reasons for the re-definition. This is what I have come up with so far:

Literacy involves the integration of a broad set of constantly evolving skills integrated across a range of contexts and the cultural knowledge that enables a person to recognize and use a variety of forms of language appropriate to different social situations. Literate people will be able to use language and numeracy to enhance their capacity to think, create and question in order to participate and communicate effectively in a technologically advanced, democratic society.

Literacy has evolved over time, adding new elements and skills along the way. Modern literacy  has the fundamental, original 3Rs at its core (reading, writing and arithmetic). However, with the explosion of Multimedia and graphic interfaces, a fourth R, Fine Art, is also  a core element of literacy. As well, with the accessibility and global connectedness achieved by the world wide web, these core elements are not sufficient for a person to be considered literate. Modern Literacy requires the extension of these 4Rs with 4Es: Expose the truth, Employ information, Express ideas compellingly (Kairos, in rhetoric), and the Ethics of usage (digital citizenship).

My interpretation borrows heavily from the definition of  the Edmonton Public Literacy Plan, the New South Wales Library, David Warlick and Clive Thompson.I am open to suggestions and welcome criticism. I would like to see a definition that is enduring enough to last through whatever tech changes the future holds.


Here Comes EPSB

I recently read Trustee Sue Huff’s blog post on Reboot Alberta in which she raises some great ideas on how democracy will/can operate in the very near future, based on Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody.” It is great to see political leaders explore these ideas and be progressive in using technology to create policy instead of using policy to react to technology. If you read her post, consider how Finland has made high speed internet access a legal right and, if we did the same in Alberta with our underutilized Supernet, consider the implications that would have for your classroom and our district. What skills would your students need to have to participate in a wired democracy? What technology would your school/district need to ensure 100% accessibility?

Every time I think I get close to an answer to these questions, I realize both the urgency of the solutions and how much more I need to learn. There is no silver bullet, but we’re going to have to take a few shots in the dark.

This got me thinking about how often I have said that we need to educate students for their future, as though that was a long way off. It’s not. It’s already here. We are back to educating students for the world they live in. Unfortunately for us, we haven’t had a lot of time to figure it for ourselves, the rate of change is too fast, and the near future is just as unpredictable as the far future. We are in the same boat as the students we teach as we try to figure out how our own world is changing. Our best hope to enlighten our students for their now and near future is to explore our own new horizons.

San Diego’s Reinventing Education

Article ReferenceReinventing Education, eSchool News (you will need an account to access it)

News about San Diego United School District’s efforts to bring teaching and learning into the 21st Century followed hot off the heals of President Obama’s speech in which he laid out his vision for education in America. As I read the article, I was struck by how similar the the language is between the SDUSD implimentation plan and our efforts here at Edmonton Public Schools. Compare, for example the quote from Eileen Lento, a governement and educational stragetist for Intel Teach, with our AISI statement (Alberta Inititive for School Improvement):

Lento – “[Such an] innovative program will provide… an engaging and personalized learning environment, mindfully designed to optimize teaching and learning through the interconnected use of visual [and] auditory [media], mobile computing, and formative assessment technologies across the curriculum.”

AISI – “Student Engagement in learning through 21st Century literacies across the curriculum”

When we consider the previous cylce of AISI involved projects in assessment, technology, differentiate learning and literacy, which are assumed in the current cycle, the similarity between the two deepens. However, surface similarities sometimes disappear during implementation. It would be interesting to see where each district is placing an emphasis base on their Stategic Plans.

Another similarity between the two is the emphasis on the TPACK model of professional development (Mishra and Koehler). That being said, it appears that SDUSD has embraced TPACK directly, where as at EPSB we are just starting to spread the idea.

But really, the only way to be sure would be to send a contingent from Edmonton to San Diego to investigate. I suggest we go some time in January.  🙂