I have recently become a fan of Tony Wagner. After reading, without pause, Creating Innovators: the making of young people who will change the world, I am truly excited about the prospect of disrupting the current style of teaching in most schools. To turn upside down our current teacher-centered, information imparting model for a challenging, interactive, “information is everywhere” format seems to address the reality of today’s students.
Why not deal in reality? Our digital natives have been raised on YouTube and reality television. Let’s put them in real situations, solving real problems, using real information to formulate solutions that may or may not succeed in the real world. Where better to take innovative risks than in the comfort of the classroom as laboratory.
What was frowned on before will be celebrated in these new classrooms. Creativity, imagination, curiosity will be encouraged. Initiative and persistence will be celebrated. Collaboration will be the order of the day. Teachers will fulfill a role as mentor, adviser, facilitator, using their experiences to guide students through the processes of design, prototyping and inventing.
Students will be actively learning to observe, make connections, apply their acquired knowledge in diverse situations and to collaborate with other students who have slightly different frames of reference from which to gather solutions.
And why should we embrace this student-centered model? The answer to that questions is contained in another book by Tony Wagner: The Global Achievement Gap: why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need — and what we can do about it.
Teaching Digital Citizenship is a non-negotiable in my opinion. Judging from the recently released Mapping Digital Literacy Policy and Practice in the Canadian Education Landscape, provincial education ministries are paying attention. There is one significant difference among the provincial reports. While all the reports refer to the importance of digital literacy across the curriculum and the importance of student awareness of their own digital footprint, Nova Scotia stands out for the tone of their report.
In light of the Rehtaeh Parsons cyber bullying case, reported two years ago today, Nova Scotia emphasizes the responsibility of teachers and school staff to be on the forefront of teaching students the importance of their accountability in cyber space. In a report entitled, Respectful and Responsible Relationships: There’s No App for That, the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyber Bullying clearly defines cyber bullying: ” (it) occurs through the use of technology and includes spreading rumours, making harmful comments and posting or circulating pictures or videos without permission. This can include sexting (sending nude or suggestive photos) and other less dramatic invasions of privacy. Cyber bullying can be done by means of a variety of forms of technology using social networks, text messaging, instant messaging, websites, email or other electronic media.” (p. 39)
While every province addresses social media responsibility, Nova Scotia takes the issue upfront and doesn’t mince words about definitions and responsibilities. As educators, we must continually talk about where our students are on social media and what they are posting. The conversation must be continuing about accountability and acceptability Nova Scotia recognizes that responsibility after a terrible tragedy. We must all take note to continue this conversation with our students.
MediaSmarts.ca creates and curates curriculum resources for teaching digital citizenship. It supports Canadian provincial curriculum. Common Sense Media, an American counterpart of MediaSmarts also supports digital literacy. Use these resources, share ideas with other teachers, but, make sure education about social media accountability is threaded throughout your teaching.