Real-Word Editing Ideas

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I prefer teaching students to use technology in real-world ways that allow them to not just consume information, but to contribute to the digital world.  Even a 2nd grader can help add to a wiki, with some guidance and help.   Rather than creating a separate wiki in an isolated environment with no defined purpose other than to ‘use technology’, I hope to have students being productive global citizens in two ways this year. ((Granted, I haven’t actually tried this with them yet, but I know my intermediate students can handle this.))

Open Book

The first opportunity is to help build a library at Open Book.  I think students have great opportunities to share about what they are reading, and to find some great books to read in the future by reading what others write.  However, the process of finding an ethical source for book covers, crediting said source, and linking to it is time consuming.

There is now a WordPress Plug-in called OpenBook Book Data that solves that dilemma.  You just click on an icon within your Visual Post Editor, add the ISBN number, and voila!  Image, credit, links galore.  It’s amazing! I’m not sure where I would be without these kinds of tools to help me manage the abundance of information on the web.

[openbook booknumber=”ISBN:0545980259″ templatenumber=”1″]

Anyhow, back to the student part of OpenBook.  OpenBook is a book information wiki that you can edit.  If you create an account, you can track your changes.  If not, OpenBook just tracks your IP address.  No student accounts needed. This afternoon, my 3rd grade son helped me enter information about a Geronimo Stilton book he read recently that was not in the database.  We had to look for the ISBN number, the author, the title, the publisher, the publishing date, and cover art via a link to Amazon.  Today, he added information to a worldwide database that other students can access and use.  That book data you see above?  We contributed that.

I think it’s an important thing to learn that you can make a positive difference online, even when you are small.

Project Gutenberg

Another opportunity to contribute to the digital world is through Project Gutenberg.  I’ve used their free online e-books for years…. way back when I had a Palm Pilot.  They encourage help in digitizing new books and recording audio books.  I’ve been working through the initial editing process, and it’s very well thought out.

[media-credit name=”” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]You select a book in a category (which for students would be Children’s, as there is some objectionable content for little eyes and ears), and compare pages to the scanned version with what the OCR software created.  Initial proofreaders make changes, and then are given feedback before progressing to more difficult projects.  Here is a place to show children that you will need those grammar and spelling skills. ((I tell them regularly when they’re having trouble accessing a website, “Hmmm…. guess it’s important to know how to spell things correctly, huh?”.)) Now, I am certain this is for older children, and even then likely the high students.  However, I think the exercise could be tremendously valuable when modeled from a projector or whiteboard.  Students could also participate through the Smooth Reading area of the site, where they can help make sure the final e-book is readable and without errors. Again, students would need to search for Juvenile books.


Like Project Gutenberg, Librivox is about communities collaborating to make audio books available and open to everyone.  You do have to register, but they say that “Everyone is welcome!”.


This one is rather a no-brainer, but I’d like to emphasize the book sharing aspect of this tool as well as the creation and collaboration parts.

I was pretty much moved to tears reading “One More Monkey” by Mopoke, that you see below.  It has all the qualities of great children’s literature, and I can see sitting down to read to my child from my iPad at bedtime with stories like this one.

One more monkey on Storybird

Those are very rough ideas.  I’ll let you know if I am able to try any of them this year with students.  Right now, I’m very bogged down trying to get our blogging project off the ground.  ((Feel free to visit my students at the BES Blogs Portal.)) Have you used any of these tools with students?  If so, what age?  How did you use them?

Tuning-Out the Technology

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I just read this tweet, and the article at 21k12 got me thinking about the issue of trust in regards to technology use.  As an elementary computer lab teacher, I deal with the 1-to-1 issue with 430 students from K-5th grades on a daily basis. Sometimes, I make use of Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) to lock the screens so students can’t access the computers.[media-credit name=”stock.xchng” align=”alignright” width=”300″]  [/media-credit](I generally don’t like to do that, and reading this article has shown me why- it’s not teaching them to handle the technology more responsibly… short sighted use of my technology.) Most of the time, students sit on the floor until they’ve been given instructions for the day and then move to their computer.  This week, I worked with several grade levels on projects that required them to both be in front of their computers and also follow instructions.  It’s a major challenge for them- not playing with Dashboard or drawing highlight boxes with their mouse (I’ll never understand the appeal of this but it’s obviously interesting to the under 12 crowd.) and listening to the speaker.  This article made me realize that it’s very important for me to begin stressing the importance of really attending to the teacher in the room with the world at their fingertips.  Training starts early- for puppies, marathoners, and children.  It needs to begin with me if my students are to learn how to tune-out the technology. I think it’s as much a training issue as a trust issue.  Have you tried to single-task with your computer in front of you lately? ((Granted, our multi-tasking is more ‘responsible’ than a child’s might be… we’re probably not checking Facebook, IMing, or texting under the table rather than listening, but isn’t it the same thing?))

It’s hard to do this!  Even as adults, we’re often asked to 45 degree our laptops in meetings so we can attend to the present.  Do I think that’s necessary or effective?  Not sure.  At ISTE, there was much discussion about how the teacher needs to be engaging enough to hold the attention of the students in spite of the tech, and that if we’re not we need to find a way to teach that does engage students.  THAT is certainly a complex issue for another day… I do know that it’s very easy to hop from one thing to another with a computer in front of us- multitasking mania!  I suffer from this… check Twitter, follow a link, start a blog post, find another link, add it to my computer lab blog, check email, balance the checkbook, check Feedburner stats, look up a calendar entry, watch a movie on Hulu, fix a link on my school site.  Our work isn’t streamlined…. it’s this great tangled web.  I’m working to manage this by following some of Leo Babauta’s tips from Zen Habits.  Turn off everything but what you need to do the task you’re focusing on at the moment. Now, work on that one thing.  Try it.  It’s HARD!

I find that I need to address that with young students.  They live in a multi-tasking world where learning to focus and concentrate is the key to creativity.  The 1-to-1 environment by high school will likely be a reality for every single one of my students.  I can help them learn this now.  This is a major part of Digital Citizenship within the ISTE NETS*S– “advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.” I think it’s asking much of our young people, but I also think it’s a vital 21st century life skill.

Are you able to single-task with your tech in front of you? Have you found yourself reading email or checking Twitter during a meeting lately?  How does that translate to teaching students with tech at their fingertips?

Nameless, Faceless Children (Blogs and Internet Safety)

paperbagboyI hereby propose that all children wear bags over their heads any time they leave the privacy of their own home (and even within it if said home has a webcam, camera, video camera, or cell phone) and cease to be called by names, but rather by a hexidecimal code that rotates regularly by security token so no single child can ever be readily identified. This act shall be called the Child Real-life Act of Protection, otherwise known as CRAP.

That’s what we need to do right?  In order to protect children, they must be nameless and faceless in all areas of their lives- especially online!- otherwise they are at risk.  However, I think we need to realize that we put our children ‘at risk’ regularly.  Take a look at the following risky scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: Johnny has a recreational soccer game on Saturday morning for the 7 & 8 year old league, which was published in the newspaper.  His last name is on his jersey.  His parents and uncle cheer loudly from the sidelines “Go Johnny!”.  He holds a water bottle with his elementary school name and logo printed on it.  Oh, and by the way, his face is visible. (Personal Information Disclosed: child’s full name, school name, age, and image)
  • Scenario 2: Mom takes Sally to the grocery store.  While shopping for food, Mom talks with Sally about what to fix herself for snack and dinner the next night, since she’ll be home alone.  Mom warns her about being safe with the microwave, then answers a cell phone call from a friend.  Mom explains to the friend that she can’t help with the carnival at Noname Elementary because she’s been so busy with preparations for Sally’s birthday on Friday.  And yes, she can’t believe her daughter is going to be 10 years old! (Personal Information Disclosed: child’s name, school name, birthdate, image, and child’s personal plans to be home alone)
  • Scenario 3: Noname Elementary school holds a special activity.  The local newspaper arrives to take photographs, which they proudly display in their community events section.  Because they are a progressive paper, those photographs are posted to the newspaper’s website and Facebook page. (Personal Information Disclosed: child’s full name, image, grade level, and school name…. all published in print and through multiple web media sources.)

Here’s my question:  What exactly are we protecting them from?  Are we actually protecting them at all by making them feel like their web presence is anonymous? I would say that they primarily need protected from themselves… that they need help moderating their web presence until they understand the full ramifications of things they say online.  I don’t think that means they need to be anonymous.  I do think that anonymity tends to foster less responsible behavior, in both children and adults alike.

Personally, I believe that students are much more ‘at risk’ when the adults in their lives don’t think about what information they share locally.  The likelihood of an individual from Mozambique purchasing a $1,748 plane ticket to come stalk a child after reading his/her blog is almost non-existent, but the possibility of a predator in the area seeing a child and pursing them…. much more in the realm of possibility.  That’s why we register sex offenders here in the US and share that on sites like Family Watchdog.

And guess what… I hope you’re sitting down, because this is BIGelementary schools have children in attendance! Lots of children!!! Everyone knows where schools are located and the number of students enrolled because that is public information.  Anyone can sit on a public road outside a public school and view hundreds of children leaving on a regular schedule, many of whom walk home or ride their bike alone.  I just want to make sure we are keeping this safety issue in perspective- local threats are just that… threats.  Online threats related to student blogging, as long as students are not disclosing personal information like “I’m home alone after school and here’s my address” or utilizing chat rooms/messaging where they engage in cyberbullying, are really not a threat.  Especially given that any posts or comments can be moderated and also take place in a very large, public forum with a highly engaged group of educators.  Safety in numbers.

This evening, I sat with my 3rd grade son and helped him get his school blog started.  (Like I said here on Twitter, it’s good to have guinea pigs at home!)  We’re trucking right along in WordPress, picking out a theme, setting up widgets, and learning how to add links & post.  He opens his blog page, looks at the Firefox address bar, turns to me, and says “Mom, won’t people know who I am because of this?”  I was actually surprised, and thankful, to note that all my talk at home and at school in the Computer Lab about internet safety has affected him.  He was really concerned about it, and we talked about what it means for people around the world to know his first name, last initial, and his school name.  And obviously, because I have such an extensive web presence and our identities are somewhat linked via the school website, people will know his last name too. Not a problem. So…

Hello, world- meet my 3rd grade son, Caleb Cunningham!  He attends Berthoud Elementary School, and he’s taking responsibility for his own web presence/digital footprint…. with some help from Mom! 😀

I have to admit, I’ve been taught online privacy (rather than online transparency) a little too well, because even though I understand the risks are minimal, my gut churns just a little bit from ‘outing’ my child to the world.  (Oh, and I do have 3 other kiddos…. Matthew Cunningham, Emily Cunningham, and Abby Cunningham.  Just wanna be an equal-opportunity mom- never say I’m not fair!)

As for those brown paper bags, don’t you think they do a better job of carrying potatoes from the market than they do in protecting children’s identities?