Are there any BALANCED teens out there?

Two weeks ago, the grade nine and ten students self reflected on our Responsible Use Policy with their homeroom teachers as a way for them to be reminded of our expectations.

The two area that were mixed or didn’t lean more towards the positive side were BALANCED and CARING.

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So, this is where LizD and I stepped in to start developing lessons and activities to help the students become more balanced and caring.

For our first sessions, we will focus on BALANCE. We are lucky at CA to have an hour BLOCK time on Fridays that we get to steal a few of throughout the year to develop ATL (Approaches to Learning/Digital Citizenship) skills.

We have created a session with multiple activities to stimulate student thinking to reflect on their lives but also to take some action.

Fortunately, today, I also just watched the Digital Nutrition TedxTalk by Jocelyn Brewer. Which got me thinking…  that the audit that I want the students to do is pretty shallow. What if they are doing great things with their long hours on their computers at night? Of course they are, but they are also probably doing a lot of mindless things as well.

So, I’d like to develop another follow up to this activity delving a little deeper about their online use. I’ll never get them to cut back on their laptops, maybe a little, but their generation is different from my own and I am online a lot.

I find it hard when I cannot deliver all the digital citizenship lessons myself, but due to my schedule and reaching all the kids in a timely manner, it isn’t always possible. I know the homeroom teachers did a great job with this lesson, as BALANCE is something I think everyone has to reflect on and work hard to maintain.  Now, I need to wait to hear how the sessions went.  I’m curious as to how the students reflected and what actions they’ll take to become more BALANCED.

Digital Citizenship Scope and Sequence

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One of my favorite (and most challenging) parts of my job is creating engaging lessons/activities to promote good tech use amongst our students in and out of school.

Sometimes this knowledge and skills is taught in classes, but a lot of times, it is taught separately during our advisory/weekly BLOCK time when we often work on social and well-being skills with our students.

For me, it can be hard to identify exactly what the grade of students needs and how it can be taught well, rather than a teacher droning on about the “No, no, nos” of their digital world which we are not always a part of.  Compounded with this, is sometimes I have to prepare lessons that I will not teach.  Often times, advisory teachers or grade level teachers teach the content and may not have social media or a good understanding of how our kids use it as they try to share their wisdom with the students.

That being said, I think it is effective, most of the time.  I try to partner up teachers so that even listening to what the students are saying can be educational for them, and I try to have interactive activities which get the kids to think and share their thoughts.  Many times there are no answers, but the students are left with questions, that they hopefully ponder, strategies that they may try or at least develop empathy and/or understanding of the systems and their classmates.

Here is our Secondary Digital Citizenship document to date.  It is a “live” document which is revised regularly.  I feel that the digital citizenship curriculum can’t be planned out perfectly every year.  Every year, different groups of kids walk through the doors.  Each grade level’s digital socialization is a bit different than the other.  It’s a great challenge.  I like that I do teach some of the students, because then I do get a good feel for what they are doing and how they are using their technology.

On Being Reflective

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This year has been a big year for me professionally.  I’ve had a lot of amazing professional development opportunities and I’ve really grown as a teacher.  Besides attending great conferences and workshops, working with colleagues and my digital PLN, the reflective piece has been essential.  

There have been two main reasons why I have reflected more this year…

1. COETAIL, the Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy –   In this 5-course certificate program, we are expected to reflect each week PUBLICLY through a blog.  I have exported that blog to this one.   All the posts prior to this post are from that course.  I have always reflected as a teacher, but writing it down and sharing it makes it so much more powerful.  When I first started teaching, I would reflect, but I never documented it.  Later, I documented my reflections in my unit planners for myself, my colleagues and my administrators to see.  COETAIL “forced” me to reflect publicly.  This was a turning point for me. This form of public reflection really made me think more deeply about what I was doing.  It made me articulate my thoughts more clearly.  It made me feel vulnerable somedays and confident on other days.  (But an important part of this piece, is that through COETAIL, I always felt safe in publishing my reflections.)  The added value of sharing my reflections and getting feedback from others has not only deepened my reflections, but it has improved my teaching and learning.

2. I started to think more about my future in teaching.  I hold two roles as a teacher and a technology coordinator and I really like the balance of the two roles, as long as there is balance.  I did a lesson sequence with my students about balance and really started to consider my own balance.  There are a lot of parts of me that wants to move into an administrative role, but I’ve been thinking long and hard about this and at this time and I’ve come to this conclusion (at least for now):

– I need to teach and know students well to be effective in my curriculum/technology coordinator job.

– I need to be there for my children, and I will not give up extra valuable time with them for work.

– While I still want to teach, I need to find a balance in my workplace where I can be a successful teacher, but also need to have time to run with some of my ideas.

I will continue with this blog for now as a place to reflect professionally – the good and the bad as I fly through my second decade of teaching.