Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sharing my Classroom Part 4: Grade 9 Digiteens

This story is about the evolution of a unit of work. In my grade 9 semester 1 class last year I ran a digital citizenship challenge within my own classroom. I wanted the students to learn how to use Web 2.0 tools and how to be responsible online citizens and students. I also wanted them to share their findings and experience with other students within the school in the form of a presentation.

This unit follows the IBO MYP Technology curriculum guide
  • Area of Interaction: Community and Service
  • Guiding Questions: How can I become a responsible citizen when using technology? How can I make others in my community aware of the importance of being a conscientious digital citizen and behaving appropriately when using technology and online resources?
  • Learning Objectives: The students will work in pairs to create a lesson based on one of the nine elements of digital citizenship
The unit was based on the book 'Digital Citizenship in Schools' by Mike Ribble and Gerald Bailey (available from the ISTE bookshop). I built a Digital Citizenship project wiki to which all students joined. Working in pairs they investigated, designed, planned and created content on a wiki and put together a lesson to be delivered to Grade 4 and 5 students. One example of student work is the Digital Health and Wellness wiki. Another is the Digital Security wiki, where you can see clear investigation, planning, uploaded artifacts, reflections and my assessment at the end. There is also some evidence of discussion. We used the wiki interface to communicate, interact and publish and as a holding place for all artifacts for the lesson to be delivered.

In semester 2, using the same concepts I developed the unit, in conjunction with colleagues Vicki Davis and Barbara Stefanics, into a global project called Digiteen. This time we continued to use the Ribble and Bailey book for inspiration and also added the PBS series Growing up Online as stimulus for discussion and interaction. We created an educational network using a Ning, also called Digiteen, and required all students from the 3 classes (Austria, Qatar and Georgia, USA) to join and interact.

We placed all students in teams across the 3 different schools and set aside working wiki pages for them to collaborate on and create content based on their given topic. See Digital Literacy and Digital Etiquette as examples.

We then asked each school and class of students to come up with an action that was realistic and doable within the timeframe that would ultimately make a difference to their own school community and spread the word about the need for digital citizenship awareness. My students at Qatar Academy decided they wanted to develop lessons and deliver these to the upper primary school (as had been done in semester 1). Student Environment Team B, consisting of Hessa, Spencer and Juan created a lesson (based on the wiki content created as a global collaboration) on Safety and Security, Etiquette, Rights and Responsibilities.

A great slideshow by Hessa, Spencer and Juan!

Westwood decided they also wanted to make a difference by creating lessons for middle school and elementary school and proceeded to use the wiki format once again to plan how to get the message across and interact with others in their own school.

Vienna International School however decided they wanted to raise awareness of the whole school, not just a part of it, and prepared an amazing event that took the school and the students by storm.
ACTION On Friday, May 19th VIS Digiteens took school action by:
1. Seeking all 600+ students in grades 6 through 11 to agree to responsible, ethical and legal uses of digital technologies (download file).
2. Raising parent awareness through the school newspaper and parent newsletter.
3. Using their digiteen logo for all digital citizenship activities (ie. posters, badges, advertising)

The wiki documents their day and the excitement that was generated from this action.
This video, taken by Barbara during the weeks before the action day, shows how engaged the students were as they worked on the project. Typical activities being done during the video are communicating with their team partners via the Ning, researching their topic, adding content to the wiki and preparing for the action as a class.

The Ning was also used to gather final student reflections and comments about the project. You can read a long reflection from Felix. From Najwa, the following quote -
"During this project i learned a lot. I managed to learn and explore about something that I thought I knew a lot about when in fact I knew close to nothing. The internet, we all think that we know everything about it. Well in fact all we know is the basic knowledge, the knowledge needed to survive the online world. We were missing the knowledge that we needed to save our self from that world. This project helped me realize what effect and territory the internet had on me and how what I need to do to gain control over my life again and to be effected by the internet as little as possible........The internet is not rocket science but is life changing and important."
From Hessa
"The objective of this project, was to reach out to the younger generation of internet users and teach them how to become positive users of this educational tool. Our goal was to send this message across by educating them about the importance of using the internet for its educational and entertainment purposes. The impact that this project had on the students, was a positive one, as the fact that they shared their personal experiences with cyber bullying and digital safety, made the experience much more meaningful and significant. However, as we are reaching out to only one class, the impact of the overall concept can be passed on by the students to their friends however, the lesson would be more meaningful if it were to be taught to a whole school rather than a class. I felt that in order for me to truly make an impact, I created a blog with my fellow colleagues, that focused on real-life stories of problems which have occurred because of being a negative digital citizenship. The site is as follows, The objective of this site is to encourage people to share their stories about their experiences as digital citizens, in order to set examples for readers as to what and what is not considered good digital citizens. Also, readers can add any relative stories in the news that interest them about this matter. Finally, I feel that with the creation of this blog, we can add it to the school wiki and it could be accessible to the whole school, and therefore the overall impact that this project is going to have on our community is increased."

From Haya
"I always thought of this project as just any other class project but now I think of it as so much more. When we learned about digital citizenship it made us aware of many other things relating to technology. Things we never thought of until we started the project. Since that time all I wanted to do was make others also understand and discover digital citizenship. That is what motivated me and the rest of my group to teach younger kids about this. They are the future generation and hopefully the information we pass on to them will stick with them and help them become more aware of the world around them. I also hope that it will help them with their decisions, decisions that will affect the world we live in."

Another interesting spin-off from the project was the interest taken by Wall Street Journalist, Christopher Lawton. Chris joined the Ning and invited the students to respond to questions, this was after seeking permission from teachers of course. The answers provided by the students are vital reading as they give an insight into how many hours they spend online, what they do, what they have found to be shocking while studying digital citizenship and general discussion about their work etc.
Amongst the many comments and answers I could share with you from the students I have chosen this one from Abdullatief which is riveting in its simplicity and honesty -
"There were many issues that I discussed that happened to me and to my friends. For example I was once playing an online game and because my name “Abdullatief” was an Arabic, Islamic name I was called a ‘Terrorist’ because of my name and that was quite harsh because that person not only made fun of my name but they also made fun of my religion and culture. Another example would be when one of my best friends sent a bomb threat to the director of the school just as a prank, but it turned out to be serious and he was kicked out of the school. Even though that was one of my best friends he still deserves his punishment because he used the internet for terrorism and that is something really serious in these days."

This was truly another amazing and eye-opening project and I thank my colleagues, Vicki Davis and Barbara Stefanics for their dedicated work and support. This is what flat classroom looks like! We are communicating, connecting, collaborating, creating and interacting and sharing across the globe, to enhance our own and our students understanding of their place in the world.

The Digiteen project will re-surface this year as a global, collaborative project. If you are interested in learning more about this and/or in creating a similar project in your school I invite you to join our Flat Classrooms Ning where all the great conversations about projects and collaborations are taking place right now!

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