Learning in the Digital Age

Technology opens myriad possibilities for global citizenship.  Students can reach out instantly to people all around the world - which is a blessing and a curse.  Not only do we need to teach our students Internet safety, we also have to show them how to evaluate sources for legitimacy and bias.  This can be very difficult especially as many of us teachers are still learning these skills ourselves.

But back to the positive power of our connectedness for a moment.  One of our first assignments regarding digital learning was to watch this powerful video which shows American and French students discussing and sharing aspects of their lives.

The World Is As Big Or As Small As You Make It from Loki Films on Vimeo.

After learning this story, I wanted my students to have the opportunity to share with students elsewhere in the world.  As part of an assessment, they created Flipgrid videos which I shared with a fellow Fulbright TGC teacher in Louisiana.  Our students loved seeing these short clips.  The platform is very intuitive and students were able to easily navigate via their phones or classroom Chromebooks.

For teachers who don't know where to begin with technology, the SAMR Model is a great visual for assessing student engagement with technology and understanding how to implement technology in order to increase engagement and have more positive outcomes in the classroom.

High school teachers should definitely consider this six-minute video to help their students navigate and evaluate online sources.  Checklists like the CRAAP Test, about halfway down this article might have been a good idea if they weren't so easy to bypass in the Web 2.0 when anyone, anywhere in the world can bypass them.  It's a much better idea to teach students how to evaluate sources laterally, by researching the organizations that publish websites they are considering using, searching for corroborative information elsewhere, and what others say about the site.

Gapminder is an incredible website filled with data and stereotype busters.  The information on Dollar Street on this page is fascinating:  the point is that across cultures, the major differences in how people live is economic, not geographic.  The "data" section has beautifully displayed graphs and information that would make even the most data-phobic person intrigued.  There are also resources for teaching, videos, and interactive displays which help us understand world populations, economics across the globe, and demographic data.

This article from NPR gives examples of how students as young as fourth graders can be taught to evaluate websites for bias and credibility.

These skills are paramount not only to our students' success within the classroom, but as we've seen in recent events, also to the stability of governments and the processes by which we learn about our world.

Some simple (and currently free!) ways to integrate technology into your classroom:
  • Google Maps:  It's a simple process to create and share a Google Map.  I created a separate map for each of my French I classes and then had them do this assignment, where they had to find the location assigned to them, drop a pin, and write a few sentences about the weather forecast for that week.  Here is the map that one class created.
  • Flipgrid:  This is a platform where teachers can create tasks for students, who use their phones or other devices to record videos (fairly short clips, up to 90 seconds long), which they upload to Flipgrid.  Flipgrid is a closed platform where the teacher can adjust settings to allow or not allow others to view the videos.  This fall, my French II students created videos about their Thanksgiving activities, which I shared with a French class in Louisiana.  Those students then responded to mine.  Very simple to use and not a single student had technical issues with this assignment.
  • VoiceThread:  This platform allows users to connect to a group set up by the teacher and leave voice recordings.  Not quite as intuitive as Flipgrid, but fairly easy to use.  A great way to collaborate.
  • Videoconferencing:  Multiple platforms, such as Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, and more, enable people to connect to one or more devices simultaneously.  One challenge with videoconferencing is that it occurs in real time, so timezones are an issue to keep in mind.  Some simple examples of how videoconferencing might work in a classroom:
    • A whole class could interview a person in another location
    • Individual students in one location could connect with other students or classes elsewhere
    • Teachers could connect with teachers for professional development

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