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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Digital and Global Citizenship in the 21st Century

With great digital power comes great civic responsibility.

As our world and its digital interfaces overlap more and more, they become increasingly conflated. The gap between being a global citizen and a digital citizen is closing quickly; being an active and engaged citizen of one means being an upstanding citizen of the other. As a Social Studies teacher, this idea really resonates with me. I seek to teach students about their own civic responsibilities, about how their ethics determine those same responsibilities and shape how it is they choose to live in their community, society, and world. I would be remiss to forego educating them about how ethics should shape not only their communal but their digital behavior, and how the responsibilities of citizenship follow them in every step of their lives, no matter the forum.

In the 1990s, Doug Johnson, the Director of Media and Technology in Mankato, Minnesota public school district, foresaw the coming of the Digital Age in which students would need to undergo training in the rights and responsibilities of the digital citizenship. In his blog http://www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/developing-ethical-behaviors-in-students.html, Johnson details how teachers can educate students about ethical digital behavior by appealing to students’ sense of ethics. He writes, “the terms “ethical,” “safe,” “moral,” “appropriate” and “legal” are all used when discussing whether technology behaviors are right or wrong,” but cautions us to remember that just as in moral ethics, digital ethics are not always black and white — we as humans tend to think of most things on an “ethical continuum” (Johnson, 2002). For instance, Johnson offers, “A student using a school computer to view sports scores is not illegal, but it could be considered inappropriate if it violates school guidelines” (Johnson, 2002).

I find Johnson’s moral appeal very compelling, and know my students would connect far more deeply with the conversation surrounding digital citizenship if they could connect it to a philosophical exploration of their own moral judgement — what is right? What is wrong? What is in between? And why?

One of my classmates kindly referred me to The Global Citizen Foundation at https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/, a nonprofit dedicated to educating and cultivating responsible digital citizens. The website offers digital professional development techniques that they urge be implemented school and district wide. The website also has several resources for teachers, and led me to historypin http://www.historypin.org/en/, a website designed for putting together local digital history projects — certainly a resource my students would enjoy! The Global Citizenship Foundation suggests that in order to be a knowledgeable digital citizen, we must be well-versed in solution, information, creativity, media, and collaboration fluency (The Global Citizen Foundation, 2016). Again, I couldn’t help but think about how transferable these fluencies are to global citizenship. I wonder if we can yet drop the “digital” when talking about digital citizenship, and consider just how universal our code of ethics can and should be.

References:

Johnson, Doug (2002). Developing ethical behaviors in students. Retrieved from http://www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/developing-ethical-behaviors-in-students.html.

The Global Citizenship Foundation (2016). Global digital citizenship guide. Retrieved from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/21st-century-fluencies/global-digital-citizenship.

History Matters: Using Rich Media to Conduct Historical Research

This week began by investigating the digital tools and resources available to help students of history use critical thinking skills to conduct and manage their own research.

I began, then, by referring to EdTechTeacher: Best History Websites at http://besthistorysites.net/research/, which offers educators tools for History Research and Writing Guides, Internet Search Tools, Primary Source Collections and Activities, History Databases, Museums Online, and Website Evaluation Materials. Dr. Bates warns teachers must be sure not “overload” students, or present them “with too much information at too complex a level or too quickly for them to properly absorb it” (section 6.6.3), so I evaluated each tool individually to better ascertain how I would directly teach its use.

As I dug into each section, I was particularly struck by The Center for History and New Media (CHNM), which seeks to produce historical works in new media forms to test their effectiveness in the classroom: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/. I have already used their History Matters website a few times in my own classroom; its Many Pasts section has primary documents in text, image, and audio that importantly trace the stories of ordinary Americans. The CHNM also features a Research and Tools section, which details how to use Zotero, a free Firefox extension used for managing and citing research sources. Additionally it offers a Making Sense of Evidence section, which provides students with strategies for analyzing online primary documents, and contains interactive exercises designed to guide the use of traditional and online sources. Lastly, CHNM’s Reference Desk offers students information on how best to evaluate websites and understand copyright and fair use.

CHNM’s History Matters website what Dr. Bates would define as a “rich media source,” offering students many ways to interact with its tools inside and outside of the classroom. As Bates warns, however “rich media may contain a great deal of information compressed into a very short time period and its value will depend to a large extent on the learner’s level of preparation for interpreting it,” (section 6.3.3.) so direct instruction in how to use each feature of this informative and varied website would be absolutely essential to explore its full and rich potential.

Another integral part of using rich media is educating students on how to do so responsibly. Students must be able to make informed decisions on the appropriate use of digital resources, and while History Matters offers some great suggestions on the matter in their Making Sense of Evidence and Reference Desk sections, students should know a thing or two about digital citizenship before even embarking upon such complex digital research.

I found a website called Digital Citizenship, which offers a “Nine Elements Section” that provides students with a list of commandments, if you will, that are easy to remember and will help guide students in their individual digital research projects http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html. These nine elements remind students what it is to be a critically thinking historian who uses their digital resources carefully and responsibly. Being responsible digital citizens, after all, allows students to make full educational use of the rich media at their fingertips.

References

Bates, A.W. (n.d.). Fundamental change in education. In Teaching in a digital age (6). Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/chapter-1fundamental-change-education/.

Learn by Doing: Using Historical Databases in the History Classroom

In my AP U.S. History course, we have begun to discuss the concept of Historiography. Students are now reading secondary sources with a critical eye — analyzing them for argument and evidence and spotting what has been left out of the secondary source all together. Students are starting to see that History is written by mere humans, humans with biases, slants, and opinions just like the rest of us.

They have had fun with this realization. Just last week we read two differing perspectives on why the U.S. entered World War I, and students assessed both of these historians’ arguments and realized that both had failed to mention the Zimmermann Telegram, a pretty integral part of the story in their view. Why hadn’t either historian mentioned that, they asked? What evidence did these two historians offer? How did they differ? How did they support their arguments?

After ample practice with this, I’d like to see my students move a step further. Dr Bates explains that in the digital age within which we now find ourselves, “the key shift is towards greater emphasis on skills, particularly knowledge management, and less on memorising content.” He continues, “We need teaching methods for teaching and learning that lead to the development of the skills needed in a digital age.”

In my course, I am trying to teach students the skills of real life historians and am trying to get them to use digital resources to do so. I like to get them investigating and drawing their own conclusions. I, of course, do provide them with enough information, or scaffolding, on a given topic (usually through interactive lectures) that they feel equipped to investigate it more on their own. Ultimately it is the students who are assessing the primary documents and analyzing the historical arguments, however; they are the true historians in my classroom.

Unsurprisingly, I was compelled by Bates’s description of Ralph Goodyear’s  HIST 305 Historiography course at an unnamed public university in the central U.S., in which students are expected, for the last third of their course, to engage in their own research projects about city histories and present their research to the rest of the class. According to Bates, Goodyear was delighted by the quality of the work and reported “What I liked was that the students weren’t learning about history; they were doing it.”

In order to get my students thinking like historians, I need to get them to do history.  I need to prepare them to do historical research first and foremost; they need to know what digital research tools and databases are available to them that will allow them to engage in archival research within the school building and even in the comforts of their own homes.

I have already found several historical research databases I intend to show my students to get them started in independent, historical research. Some of these digital archives are local in nature — including historylink.org and the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project — and some national — including the Library of Congress’s online resources.

One database I have found particularly comprehensive is Fordham University’s Internet History Sourcebooks Project: http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/index.asp. The website offers a variety of historical sourcebooks, organized by time period and space, or historical topic. Students can click around such historical topics to find primary documents through which to sift. The website founders have already organized the sourcebooks to ensure that all documents and external websites are of high quality.

Importantly, the website also includes a “Studying History” tab that offer students guidance on how to best use primary sources, engage in historiography, and write effective research essays. All of these tools are intended to help students critically evaluate the historical information they are gathering through this site and others.  See these additional tools at:  http://legacy.fordham.edu/Halsall/mod/modsbook01.asp.

I foresee suggesting that students begin their research with a database such as this, and let it lead them to additional resources along the way. Hopefully this will allow them to piece together the history they are researching in their own way, which will allow them to read secondary sources with a more critical and independent thinking eye!

The best way to learn history is to do it. As an educator, I plan to use online databases to help students do history. They’ll investigate sources, conduct research, and make their own judgements as to how all of the pieces fit together. They’ll be the historical detectives of their own studies, and they’ll get to decide what it is that makes history history.

The digital age, and its varied online resources, can help us as educators entrust our students with the responsibility of their own learning, and instruct that our students learn by doing.

References

Bates, A.W. (n.d.). Fundamental change in education. In Teaching in a digital age (4). Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/chapter-1fundamental-change-education/.

Integrating Practical and Academic Knowledge: How Technology Can Bridge the Gap

Last module I spoke about Dr. Tony Bate’s conception of a “knowledge-based society” and articulated some hesitation I feel as an educator in an increasingly tech and practical skill driven world. The truth is practical knowledge is not my weildhouse; academic knowledge is. I often fear that emphasis will be “placed on the utility of knowledge for commercial purposes,” (p. 2.7.1) instead of on the importance of knowledge for knowledge’s sake – knowledge being integral to critical thinking skills and active citizenship. Dr. Bates assuaged my fears, however, in suggesting that focusing only on practical knowledge is “a mistake, even in terms of economic development,” (p. 2.7.1) and contending that academic and applied knowledge are, and should be, deeply integrated.

So how best could I integrate applied knowledge into my academic curriculum, I asked myself? How could applied knowledge actually better support academic development? What types of digital tools and environments are out there to support both individual and collaborative learning in and out of the classroom?

Part of integrating practical and academic knowledge involves tearing down the classroom walls. Students should engage with their academic subjects in practical ways in their own time. The online textbook is a great way to do this. It allows students to intellectually explore as they use practical-internet based skills to best interact with their textbook.

In my own AP U.S. History class we often suggest that our students use the companion website for our textbook, America’s History (2007), at http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/henretta7ehs/#t_771262____ The website offers students several resources integral to learning at home. The website offers an e-book version of the textbook, should a student want to virtually interact with its contents, as well as section and chapter reviews and practice quizzes. The site also includes resource guides that point students towards additional online resources. Instructors can also enjoy in the site’s resources – they can check out its supplemental primary source materials and lesson plan suggestions, and can even check in on student interaction with the website.

Another part of pairing practical and academic knowledge is asking that students collaborate on learning projects. Google Applications for Education, https://www.google.com/edu, is a widely-used practical tool that enables students to engage in collaborative activities and projects. Students can simultaneously edit documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and more, as they interact with a site integral to the commercial workplace. Google Applications for Educators also allows for a great deal of instructional oversight, as teachers can create accounts for their classrooms. They can check in on student collaboration outside of the classroom, and offer insight and guidance from the privacy of their own home.

The trick, of course, is to keep thinking on ways to incorporate digital tools that may someday be integral to the commercial workplace into the academic setting. We can focus our energies on academic knowledge while simultanously teaching our students practical skills that support both individual and collaborative learning in and outside of the classroom walls.

References

Bates, A.W. (n.d.). Fundamental change in education. In Teaching in a digital age (2). Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/chapter-1fundamental-change-education/.

 

Telling (Digital) Stories of our Nation’s Past: Using Film Technology in the U.S. History Classroom

The technological revolution has knocked on our classroom door, and it is asking to come in. Proponents of using technology in the classroom insist that it allows students to investigate learning in new and individualized ways. Teachers must focus on the skills students need in our rapidly advancing world while still maintaining the integrity of intellectual and independent learning.

Dr. Tony Bates purports that we are living in a “knowledge-based society,” or a society dependent on its 21st century skills so I began this week by questioning how I could better incorporate the tech-skills needed for this same society into the Social Studies classroom. I asked what types of tech-driven projects have been used in the History classroom that have allowed student to demonstrate creativity while constructing genuine experiential knowledge? What innovative ideas were out there and what technological products and processes were best for students to engage fully in exploration-based projects?

I began answering this question by reading up on digital storytelling. History, after all, is our world’s narrative; it’s a compilation of stories – biased, tainted, epic, and tragic. Bob Dillan (2014) writes of the power of digital storytelling and promises it is “now both easy to produce and simple to publish [and is] an ideal way to energize learning and engage students at a deeper level.” The digital storytelling model allows students to showcase their learning not only for their peers and teacher, but also for a public beyond the school building.

I have found that telling stories, particularly through film (with its important visual aids and historical reenactments), really brings History alive for students. My mentor teacher and I have been discussing developing a project in which our AP U.S. History students create a digital story through a historical film reel. We plan to introduce a little bit of film history to the course — i.e. when it was that the reel was first invented and what early filmmakers did with it — and ask that students channel the storytelling skills of those early filmmakers and document something of that time in a short film sketch. Dillan’s work assured me that there was a lot out there. Students can use tools such as WeVideo, Youtube, and iMovie to craft and edit short films to better tell their digital stories of the past.

Further investigation brought me to teachinghistory.org, a website with incredible resources for Social Studies teachers, full of ideas for best practices and suggested teaching materials. I stumbled upon an article about integrating technology in the classroom, which referred to the Reel American History Project (see http://digital.lib.lehigh.edu/trial/reels/), a film project created by Lehigh University students which offers a list of independent and historically significant films, and explains how best to use them in the classroom. Each film helps students construct a deeper understanding of history. The project also encourages students to submit their work to its archive so they can be shown in other classes throughout the country.

Teachinghistory.org also described Digital Storyteller (see http://www.primaryaccess.org./) a web-based tool used for creating short digital movies using text, images, and narration. “The goal,” teachinghistory.org states, “is to guide students in effectively using, interpreting, and integrating primary sources” (n.d.). Teachers can even create a classroom account and select and annotate resources students may use to create their 1-3 minute movies.

Students are always more engaged in their learning when they are asked to produce something creative, original, and uniquely their own. Short film reels will allow them to do just that, and to tell their own digital stories through independent renderings of the past.

Is it just me or is technology’s knocking on the classroom door getting even louder? We better let it in, invite it to stay, and see what it can do! At the very least it can help us tell pretty great visual stories of times long past.

References

Bates, A.W. (n.d.). Fundamental change in education. In Teaching in a digital age (1). Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/chapter-1fundamental-change-education/.

Dillon, Bob (2014). The power of the digital story. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-power-of-digital-story-bob-dillon.

Teachinghistory.org: National History Education Clearinghouse (2016). Integrating technology in the history classroom. Retrieved from http://teachinghistory.org/teaching-materials/ask-a-master-teacher/23634.