26 February 2013

Habits of Learning

Habits of Learning: 
Responsible, Reliable Management of 
Online Activity

For Module 3: Citizenship, of the Flat Classroom Teacher Course, we have been assigned 'Quadblog' groups; this gives us a taste of what it is like to try to work asynchronously towards a common goal with people we don't know and who are in different time zones. My group has been assigned the topic of Individual Awareness, which is one of the areas of awareness that permeate every area of digital citizenship.

Within each of the five areas of awareness - technical, individual, social, cultural and global - there are four "rays of understanding": Safety, Privacy, Copyright, Fair Use, and Legal Compliance; Etiquette and Respect; Habits of Learning: Responsible, Reliable Management of Online Activity, and Literacy and Fluency. For the Quadblog group, I am tackling the understanding of Habits of Learning: Responsible, Reliable Management of Online Activity within the concept of individual awareness.
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"Our future as a planet relies on our ability to use incredible technological advances for good and that begins with being able to relate to one another and prevent cultural disconnects from happening (98)"

Digital citizenship needs to concern itself much more with social responsibility and social learning (95); building a responsible habit of mind when it comes to being a digital citizen means "having a professional approach to all things digital" (107). The main questions individuals must ask themselves are:

  1. do I have personal habits that facilitate lifelong learning?
  2. do I share with others and understand their own value of education? (107)
These are questions we must ask ourselves as educators as well as of our learners - we must model individual awareness and let them see it in action; we must make it a habit of mind in order that it becomes entrenched in our teaching and learning and is automatically instilled into our approaches.

I recently took part in a virtual book club about taking control of your own learning, very much concerned with creating sound habits of learning that support our professional learning in a digital age. Kristen Swanson, author of Professional Learning in the Digital Age, advocates three main steps to creating a habit of user-generated learning - curation, reflection and contribution.

In the Flat Classroom book, Vicki Davies and Julie Lindsay suggest that "reliability is shown by having an online presence, often called "digital footprint", that is proliferated through sensible actions and responses while using digital tools" (107). In addressing question 1) do I have personal habits that facilitate lifelong learning?,  Swanson's chapters on Curation and Reflection will help to build solid foundations that allow you to get out there, manage what you find and reflect on it's use. My blog post 'Pearls of Wisdom', discusses the awesome Pearltrees as a great curation tool, and the post 'Bare your Soul' advocates how "the act of finding resources and thinking about them changes your practice. The more exploring [you] do, the more [you] try, and the more [you] learn", Richard Byrne, quoted in 'Reflection', 'Professional Learning in a Digital Age' by Kristen Swanson.  

One way I have approached this with my learners is through a project called 'Snapshots' that I wrote to ask learners to think about the question, 'How do I want to present myself to the world?'. This project ran from G6-10 and began with an exploration, through poetry, of who they think they are - and more importantly, who do they want to be seen as to people who don't know them. To establish the habit of learning about responsibility, we moved on to a 'Paper Blogging Project' that had learners post blog post simulations, on paper, on the outside of my classroom walls. The school community was informed and invited to contribute and learners used sticky notes to 'post' comments on each others' writing. We took time to review these posts and then discussed what was appropriate, kind, critical commenting as well as how to take responsibility and remove inappropriate or unhelpful comments. We signed up to Quadblogs, with the agreement that we would go last, and spent three weeks looking at our assigned school blogs to to see their organisation and discussed how to organise our own. We drew up and signed an agreement with parents before launching them online. 

In addressing question 2) do I share with others and understand their own value of education?, my blog post about contribution, quotes Vicki Davis in 'Global Education by Design' stating that we "must leave digital footprints so people know you’re treading among them and part of the community."  It is our responsibility to do that safely, responsibly and build this in our learners. Having the chance to practise blogging safely and see others doing it before going 'live' I believe built in some great habits of responsible and reliable behaviours; it made learners very aware of the language being used and they started pointing out non-standard English immediately - I hope that my reinforcement of the need to have a "professional approach to all things digital" particularly in terms of language is affecting their communication in all areas.

Common Sense Media is a great place for digital citizenship sources; I want to develop the 'Snapshots' unit into a more detailed exploration of digital citizenship that all Grade 6s must complete at the start of secondary school. Their Digital Passport site looks like a really interesting place to start. I also want to build in more consideration of Digital Culture from my current learning through a Coursera MOOC I am just completing on E-Learning & Digital Cultures with the older grades. I also want to approach the administration at school about building in some of the projects offered by Vicky and Julie: the Digiteen Project, the Flat Classroom Project and the NetGenEd Project to allow all learners at all levels develop strong habits and exposure to online, global citizenship.

If, as is suggested in Flat Classroom's Chapter 3: Connection, "ninety-five percent of [we] accomplish is due to our habits" (Tracy, 35) then I recommend Kirsten Swanson's book; it ties in really well with the Flat Classroom book and will guide you into building solid habits of learning, especially those new to online networking and managing a digital footprint -  it could really help you develop strong habits to ensure your footsteps are smooth, safe and steady so you are ready to help learners. Our own individual awareness needs to be established; individual awareness about habits of mind will allow us to act with responsibility and reliability; it will ensure our footprints are positive and sure, it will help prevent us slipping off the path into danger, it will help stop us tripping ourselves up!
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Lindsay, Julie, and Vicki A. . Davis. "Chapter 3: Connection, Chapter 5: Citizenship. Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time. Boston: Pearson, 2013. N. pag. Print.
Swanson, Kristen. Professional Learning in the Digital Age: The Educator's Guide to User-generated Learning. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, 2013. Print.