Category Archives: Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context

3 Obvious Ways Twitter Promotes Literacy

What today's young people know is that knowing who you're writing for and why you're writing might be the most crucial factor of all.

It was an interesting day for me.  I spoke in the same district that I did my first keynote in by myself, and it was an amazing experience to reconnect and think about my journey over the last few years.  The person that asked me to speak over six years ago was still there, and we reminisced about our experiences over this time.

One of the conversations was going back to the idea of Twitter and does it actually promote literacy.  Thinking about, jumping onto Twitter years ago has led to many amazing opportunities for me, but I also think that it has led to tremendous growth in my own learning over time.  Since I first started connecting with others through the medium, I have written over 88,000 tweets, written over 1,100 blog posts, and one book.  I am a firm believer that if you want to become better at writing, the best way to do it is to write more.

Without connecting on Twitter, I truly believe that I would not have written in the other mediums.  I have started blogs before, but never made it past a few posts.  As for a book?  I doubt that was something I would have ever done without Twitter.  I am not the only one; so many educators that have connected through the medium have written and published their own books.  I have seen people criticize that so many educators are writing books now, and I think, “Wow! So many educators are writing books now!”  Educators sharing their wisdom with different audiences all over the world is a pretty powerful thing.

Yet how does Twitter actually promote literacy?  As I thought about it, here are three obvious ways that really stand out to me.

  1. You read more. Many educators start off with the idea that they are “lurkers” on Twitter.  They have access to learning and ideas that they might not get within their own schools or usual circles.  I am a big believer in “created serendipity“; the more connected you are, the more ideas seem to find you, not the other way around.  The amount of blog posts and articles that I have read in the last few years is seemingly more than I ever read in my time as a student.  It should be also noted that none of these articles were pushed upon me but it was an opportunity to read things that I was interested in, not articles that were pushed upon me by someone else.
  2. You write more. I googled, “How many characters are in your average book?”, and according to this site, it is approximately 500,000.  So let’s say that the average tweet has 100 characters, well then 5000 tweets would equate to the length of a book.  Now writing 500,000 characters of tweets versus writing in a book are not equally weighted, but simply put, you are writing more.  Getting on Twitter is not about writing a book though, but how often do students write this much on their own?

    Clive Thompson has an interesting take on this:

    “The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

    It’s almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

    But is this explosion of prose good, on a technical level? Yes. Lunsford’s team found that the students were remarkably adept at what rhetoricians call kairos—assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. The modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay writing of 50 years ago.”

    Which leads us into the next point…

  3. You can find your voice.  If you go onto Twitter, there are many educators that are passionate about so many different things, both in and out of the realm of education.  If literacy is about how we communicate our ideas, we have to understand how we connect and share, and how an audience will interpret we are sharing.  This is crucial as it is not only about the message, but how it is delivered.  As I am a big believer in moving from engagement to empowerment, someone that feels empowered to share will most likely tend to share more.

I have long held the belief that we are slowly becoming illiterate if we do not keep up with these modern mediums, but my focus is not about how to keep up, but how to embrace the opportunities these mediums provide us.  If there is something that could get our students not only reading more, but writing more as well, wouldn’t we be crazy not to embrace it?

 

Screen time; Quality versus Quantity

Thinking through writing…

A question I always receive in workshops regarding the use of technology in the classroom is regarding the notion of “screen time”; what amount is too much (as you will never hear someone asking how much is sufficient!)?

Recently, “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)”, changed their recommendations on the amount of screen time that it would suggest for a child under two (previously it was no screen time at all based on recommendations).  According to this article from parents.com, here are some of the AAP’s suggestions:

Treat media as you would any other environment in your child’s life. The same parenting rules apply in both real and virtual environments. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Know their friends, both online and off. Know what platforms they are using, where they are going and what they are doing.

Be a good role model. Teach and model kindness online. Limit your own media use. Attentive parenting requires face time away from screens.

Know the value of face-to-face communication. Very young children learn best through two-way communication. Engaging in “talk time” remains critical for language development. That can be face-to-face or via video chat with traveling parent or grandparent. It’s the back-and-forth conversation that improves language skills.

Families who play together, learn together. Family participation in media encourages social interactions and learning. Play a video game with your kids. Your insight helps children put their media experience into perspective. It’s also a good way to demonstrate good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette.

Do your homework on apps. More than 80,000 apps are labeled as educational, but little research validates their quality. Products pitched as “interactive” should require more than “pushing and swiping.” Look to organizations likeCommon Sense Media for reviews on age-appropriate apps, games and programs.

Set limits and encourage playtime. Unstructured playtime stimulates creativity. Make unplugged playtime a daily priority, especially for very young children. Tech use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits.

It’s OK for your teen to be online. Online relationships are part of adolescent development. Social media can support teens as they find their own identity. Just be sure your teen is behaving appropriately in both the real and online worlds. Keep lines of communication open and let them know you’re there if they have questions or concerns.

Create tech-free zones. Keep family mealtimes tech-free. Recharge devices overnight outside your child’s bedroom. These actions encourage family time, healthier eating habits and better sleep.

Kids will be kids. Kids will make mistakes using media. Handle these mistakes with empathy and use them as teachable moments. But some indiscretions, such as sexting or posting self-harm images, should be a flag to look further into your child’s behaviors.

All very sensible and make sense.  The conversation is crucial.

So what does this mean for schools?  Is it really about the time students spend in front of screen, or the quality of things they do in front of a screen?  For example, there is a difference between a child watching Sesame Street, as opposed to a child watching Sesame Street and talking about it during the program with an adult. Still the same amount of time in front of a screen, but the quality has definitely increased in the latter example.

In many schools that are hoping to get access to technology when funds are lacking, what happens when a child is front of that screen?  Are the activities focusing on thinking and promoting some mindfulness, or are the student’s getting “lost” in the screen?  Consuming videos on YouTube can become mind-numbing in some ways, but creating a video to post on YouTube, can actually create a connection and reflection on content, that was not there when simply consuming.

A timer in front of screen is probably not realistic in schools, but being thoughtful of what you and your students do while having access to technology is crucial.

But that being said…I know that sometimes I spend a lot of time getting lost on YouTube and Vine; I need a “check out” and watch some cats and dogs videos.  I sometimes need to not feel productive.  I thought about this fact as I read this article from a Meredith Bland titled, “Screen Time is Just a Part of Life“. This part resonated:

I’m not worried about my children becoming slugs because that is not something I will allow as their parent. My kids participate in after-school activities. My husband and I are constantly trying to find ways for us to be outdoors. I encourage a love of reading and a tolerance for school work. They love to swim and participate in martial arts. And, in addition to all of that, they also love playing video games. There doesn’t have to be an emphasis on one and a denial of the other. I don’t believe the answer is to limit our children to a half an hour of TV a week, but rather to let them explore all of their interests and enjoy all parts of life.

There’s little in this world that is all good or all bad, and I want them to know that video games and television shows are an enjoyable part of life that they don’t need to shun and look down on in order to be accomplished, worthwhile human beings. It’s we adults who saddle ourselves with worry about using our time effectively—children don’t need to be effective; they just need to be kids. They get enough of adults structuring their time and making sure it is used to accomplish something. (And usually, that is more about the feelings of the adult than the child.) So if my kids want to balance out their accomplishments with a few hours of video games, that works for me. Go grow some dragons and defeat the enemy troops. The world will still be here for you to explore when you get back.

Quote from Meredith Bland

Quote from Meredith Bland

What I think is extremely crucial in this conversation is the conversation in the first place! That people are thinking about it in the context of teaching, learning, and parenting, and finding solutions that work for their family and treating their children as individuals, and not as part of a study, is something that I believe it be important.  What works for one, might not work for another.

Technology should personalize, not standardize.  Our conversations about it should not be standardized as well.

P.S,  This article was written while looking at a screen and the opportunity to reflect and connect my own ideas, and share these thoughts with others is an activity that I would see as extremely beneficial to my learning…just noticed the irony before I was about to press publish.

Screen time; Quality versus Quantity

Thinking through writing…

A question I always receive in workshops regarding the use of technology in the classroom is regarding the notion of “screen time”; what amount is too much (as you will never hear someone asking how much is sufficient!)?

Recently, “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)”, changed their recommendations on the amount of screen time that it would suggest for a child under two (previously it was no screen time at all based on recommendations).  According to this article from parents.com, here are some of the AAP’s suggestions:

Treat media as you would any other environment in your child’s life. The same parenting rules apply in both real and virtual environments. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Know their friends, both online and off. Know what platforms they are using, where they are going and what they are doing.

Be a good role model. Teach and model kindness online. Limit your own media use. Attentive parenting requires face time away from screens.

Know the value of face-to-face communication. Very young children learn best through two-way communication. Engaging in “talk time” remains critical for language development. That can be face-to-face or via video chat with traveling parent or grandparent. It’s the back-and-forth conversation that improves language skills.

Families who play together, learn together. Family participation in media encourages social interactions and learning. Play a video game with your kids. Your insight helps children put their media experience into perspective. It’s also a good way to demonstrate good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette.

Do your homework on apps. More than 80,000 apps are labeled as educational, but little research validates their quality. Products pitched as “interactive” should require more than “pushing and swiping.” Look to organizations likeCommon Sense Media for reviews on age-appropriate apps, games and programs.

Set limits and encourage playtime. Unstructured playtime stimulates creativity. Make unplugged playtime a daily priority, especially for very young children. Tech use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits.

It’s OK for your teen to be online. Online relationships are part of adolescent development. Social media can support teens as they find their own identity. Just be sure your teen is behaving appropriately in both the real and online worlds. Keep lines of communication open and let them know you’re there if they have questions or concerns.

Create tech-free zones. Keep family mealtimes tech-free. Recharge devices overnight outside your child’s bedroom. These actions encourage family time, healthier eating habits and better sleep.

Kids will be kids. Kids will make mistakes using media. Handle these mistakes with empathy and use them as teachable moments. But some indiscretions, such as sexting or posting self-harm images, should be a flag to look further into your child’s behaviors.

All very sensible and make sense.  The conversation is crucial.

So what does this mean for schools?  Is it really about the time students spend in front of screen, or the quality of things they do in front of a screen?  For example, there is a difference between a child watching Sesame Street, as opposed to a child watching Sesame Street and talking about it during the program with an adult. Still the same amount of time in front of a screen, but the quality has definitely increased in the latter example.

In many schools that are hoping to get access to technology when funds are lacking, what happens when a child is front of that screen?  Are the activities focusing on thinking and promoting some mindfulness, or are the student’s getting “lost” in the screen?  Consuming videos on YouTube can become mind-numbing in some ways, but creating a video to post on YouTube, can actually create a connection and reflection on content, that was not there when simply consuming.

A timer in front of screen is probably not realistic in schools, but being thoughtful of what you and your students do while having access to technology is crucial.

But that being said…I know that sometimes I spend a lot of time getting lost on YouTube and Vine; I need a “check out” and watch some cats and dogs videos.  I sometimes need to not feel productive.  I thought about this fact as I read this article from a Meredith Bland titled, “Screen Time is Just a Part of Life“. This part resonated:

I’m not worried about my children becoming slugs because that is not something I will allow as their parent. My kids participate in after-school activities. My husband and I are constantly trying to find ways for us to be outdoors. I encourage a love of reading and a tolerance for school work. They love to swim and participate in martial arts. And, in addition to all of that, they also love playing video games. There doesn’t have to be an emphasis on one and a denial of the other. I don’t believe the answer is to limit our children to a half an hour of TV a week, but rather to let them explore all of their interests and enjoy all parts of life.

There’s little in this world that is all good or all bad, and I want them to know that video games and television shows are an enjoyable part of life that they don’t need to shun and look down on in order to be accomplished, worthwhile human beings. It’s we adults who saddle ourselves with worry about using our time effectively—children don’t need to be effective; they just need to be kids. They get enough of adults structuring their time and making sure it is used to accomplish something. (And usually, that is more about the feelings of the adult than the child.) So if my kids want to balance out their accomplishments with a few hours of video games, that works for me. Go grow some dragons and defeat the enemy troops. The world will still be here for you to explore when you get back.

Quote from Meredith Bland

Quote from Meredith Bland

What I think is extremely crucial in this conversation is the conversation in the first place! That people are thinking about it in the context of teaching, learning, and parenting, and finding solutions that work for their family and treating their children as individuals, and not as part of a study, is something that I believe it be important.  What works for one, might not work for another.

Technology should personalize, not standardize.  Our conversations about it should not be standardized as well.

P.S,  This article was written while looking at a screen and the opportunity to reflect and connect my own ideas, and share these thoughts with others is an activity that I would see as extremely beneficial to my learning…just noticed the irony before I was about to press publish.

Is a “Growth Mindset” Enough?

The world only cares about—and pays off on—what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). (2)

The quote above from a Thomas Friedman article on what Google looks for employees is one that has stuck with me.  It was a huge reason why I wrote “The Innovator’s Mindset” in the first place.

Yet this post was sparked by some conversations as well as this blog post by Adam Schoenbart comparing my book to E.D. Hirsch’s book from 1987, “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know”.  Here is one of the passages from Adam’s blog:

Couros argues that “We are spending so much time telling our students about what they can’t do that we have lost focus on what we can do” (p. 7), to which Hirsh would counter: “Our children can learn this information only by being taught it” (p. 14). What and how seem to be at odds in this dynamic. Hirsh’s views on the limited potential of students are definitely problematic, writing, “Left to itself, a child will not grow into a thriving creature” (p. 31). Really!?!

While Hirsh wants students to simply memorize 150-pages-or-so of definitive knowledge and ideas, Corous seeks to expand worldviews: “Innovation demands that our students learn the basics, but how we go about teaching them may look different than in years past. The basics are crucial, but they cannot be the only things we teach our students” (p. 163). What we teach our students is crucial to both authors as information is key in both texts.

Adam goes on to wonder what Hirsch’s viewpoints would be almost 30 years after this book where information is abundant:

Again for Hirsh, it’s about information first and foremost. With limited flexibility, he wants to tell America what to learn, to which Couros would likely respond: “You’ll learn that to truly empower people, there must be a shift from telling to listening” (p. 7). One can’t help but wonder how Hirsh’s views may have evolved in the new reality of technology and access to information.

Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” is one book that really pushed my thinking over the past few years.  The language we use when working with our students is crucial in how we help them develop.  In this post sharing 25 quotes from the book, here are some that stuck out to me:

Test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is, but they don’t tell you where a student could end up. – Carol Dweck

Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training. – Carol Dweck

Wow, that’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard. – Carol Dweck

What did you learn today? What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today? – Carol Dweck

Although I am just sharing a bit of the book, these quotes scream “SCHOOL!” to me, not necessarily empowered learning.

Take the last quote shared in the group above.

What did you learn today? What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today? – Carol Dweck

What if it was changed to this?

What did you learn today? What ideas do you have moving forward because of what you learned? What will you create from this?

Both quotes are focused on learning, but in one case, the learning is extended.  This quote from “The Center for Accelerated Learning” shares the importance of creation for learning:

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 8.00.02 PM

 

So let’s go back to the title of this post; Is a “Growth Mindset” Enough?

My short answer (obviously) is no.  That doesn’t mean it is irrelevant, but I see it as more of a continuum.  Knowledge and information are crucial to creation; they are not separated.  But my hope is to go beyond kids being “good at school” and the learning that we decide is important for them.

It is about going further with learning, to help kids (and ourselves) become creators, inventors, and innovators.

A simple analogy to explain mindset from my book:

Let’s take the simple example of playing the piano to compare the two ideas. With a fixed mindset, the learner doesn’t believe he or she has the ability to play the piano. With a growth mindset, the learner believes that, with hard work and practice, the opportunity to play the piano is within the realm of his or her ability. That belief leads the learner to try and, ultimately, grow.

The innovator’s mindset takes the growth mindset a step further by focusing on using one’s ability to learn to play the piano to create music.

As I go to many sessions at conferences, I often wonder if the focus is on how to help student’s become strong at “school”, or to truly empower them as learners and creators.  Do we want students to learn math or be able to do things with the math they have learned?  As Friedman states, what we do with what we know is what will separate us today in a world where information is abundant.

3 Things Education Graduates Should Have Before They Leave University

In 2015, I wrote this post entitled, “3 Things Students Should Have Before They Leave High School“.  Here were the things that were listed:

3 Things Students Should Have

I thought of this post as I was talking to a recent university graduate from the field of education.  As I asked a friend to look at her resume, he right away asked, “Where is her portfolio? Where is her Twitter handle?”. She had neither.

So as we look at post-secondary students graduating from different education programs, if we want these things I have listed (or at least somewhere in the ballpark), are our university programs asking the same things from their graduates?  Isn’t the best way to learn this process through doing it, not hearing about it?

If I was working in a university program, I would hope that these things would be implemented and integrated into programs. Instead of everything being given directly to the professor, would it not be beneficial to share this work with other educators (both new and experienced), while also building their own digital footprint?  One thing I know is that this should not be solely focused on in “educational technology” courses, otherwise only the students in the program would have the opportunity to create this, or solely connect this to learning that is done with only “technology” in mind.  It is something much bigger.

Yet some are concerned that not all educational organizations are looking for these things, so it could be a lot of time for little benefit.  I would adamantly disagree with this.  First of all, students taking time to actively reflect and share their learning is not only beneficial to themselves, but to others as well if it is open.  Secondly, in a world where most people are getting googled for the jobs, this would only strengthen (or at least create) a digital footprint.

Finally, if an employer is not looking for these things, make sure they find them.  At the top of my resume, I can easily place the statement “For full portfolio, check out georgecouros.ca“.  This allows the employer the opportunity to see my portfolio before I get an interview, not ONLY IF I get an interview.

I would love to be able to see a candidates thinking and growth over their time in university.  Would this not be more beneficial than looking solely at a transcript of grades and a diploma?  It might take a lot longer to peruse, but it would help the employer make better decisions on candidates. My belief is that the extra time is worth it.

So if I slightly revamp the above picture, to fit this idea, does this not still make sense?

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 1.06.40 PM

If we want our new educators into the profession to think different, they will need to experience something different.  The best way to teach this is to have learned it first.

“…many kids are learning how to be good at going to school.” #InnovatorsMindset

I started to read this extremely enjoyable book by Amanda Lang, titled “The Power Of Why: Simple Questions That Lead to Success”.  Although I only have read the first chapter at this point, there was so much that connected with education, that I couldn’t help but to take a “blog break” and share some of my thinking.

This quote on the importance of curiosity connected a lot to what I wrote about in “The Innovator’s Mindset“:

Curious kids learn how to learn, and how to enjoy it—and that, more than any specific body of knowledge, is what they will need to have in the future. The world is changing so rapidly that by the time a student graduates from university, everything he or she learned may already be headed toward obsolescence. The main thing that student needs to know is not what to think but how to think in order to face new challenges and solve new problems.

Yet do schools often promote the opposite of curiosity and look for compliance?

In an educational system in which productivity is measured by hours logged per task, number of worksheets completed and scores on standardized tests, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to prompt kids to ask more questions unless the questions are about what’s going to be on the test. In many classrooms, stopping to encourage and mull over questions that aren’t procedural or directly related to the material at hand is viewed as wasting time. It’s no big surprise then that most kids come to school bursting with questions, but exit, a dozen or so years later, asking very few. Curiosity declines from one grade to the next, and the reason isn’t that kids’ thirst for knowledge has been satiated and they now know everything they want or need to know.

And then this:

So instead of learning how to learn, many kids are learning how to be good at going to school. The straight-A student is, in virtually every educational setting, the one who has figured out what the teacher wants and how to deliver it.

Yet, here is where I was blown away.  Does the “get the right answer” culture stop at K-12, or does it continue on in post-secondary?  The author contends in some ways it gets worse:

But apparently, matters are even worse at institutions of higher learning. My source of this information? Celebrated professors at those same institutions. “The traditional way of thinking about learning at a university is that there’s somebody who’s a teacher who actually has some amount of knowledge, and their job is figuring out a way of communicating that knowledge to someone else,” Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, told Maclean’s. “That’s literally a medieval model, it comes from the days when there weren’t a lot of printed books around, so someone read the book and explained it to everybody else. That’s our model for what university education, and for that matter high school education, ought to be like. It’s not a model that anybody’s ever found any independent evidence for … I don’t think there’s any scientist who thinks the way we typically do university courses, where we have 300 people in a lecture hall and someone standing at the front and talking to them, has anything to do with the best methods for getting people to learn.”

…Gopnik went on to point out that because of the “insane” competition to get into top universities like McGill and Harvard, by the time students finally arrive, they’ve been trained to focus on grades rather than on taking intellectual risks or asking questions. The important thing is getting an A, not having an original thought.

Do we do our best to weed out divergent thinkers?  What does this do for our thinking in the future and the future of “innovation” in education, business, and social programs?

But this lack of “divergent thinking” (or the openness to it) is not only encouraged in schools, but in every day facets of our lives.

In this article shared by Stephen Ransom titled “The Other Side is Dumb“, it also talked about how the “Internet” is not necessarily promoting divergent thinking. Where things are carefully curated based on what you have shared, are we open to listening and considering the perspectives of others, or are we so focused on “being right” that we lose out on our own growth?  (Really encourage you to read this entire article.)

Or, the next time you feel compelled to share a link on social media about current events, ask yourself why you are doing it. Is it because that link brings to light information you hadn’t considered? Or does it confirm your world view, reminding your circle of intellectual teammates that you’re not on the Other Side?

I implore you to seek out your opposite. When you hear someone cite “facts” that don’t support your viewpoint don’t think “that can’t be true!” Instead consider, “Hm, maybe that person is right? I should look into this.”

Unless we intentionally go out of our way to ask questions, listen to others, and try to gain perspectives that do not always align with our own, we will get what we got.  Seemingly, the world and education is set up to keep you colouring between the lines, yet if we truly want to promote “innovation”, we are going to have to encourage curiosity from ourselves and our students, to gain new perspectives that will help us all move forward.

We forget that if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.

“Deficit Comparisons” To “Abundance Introspection”

comparing-to-others-quote

There is so much “grey” here but I am trying to write to understand my own learning, so hopefully this is not too disjointed.

Ken Shelton and I have become good friends over the years, but have only had a few interactions.  Sometimes you just meet people that you feel you have known forever, and your relationship just clicks.  Thats my connection with Ken.

One of the things I heard him saying to someone else while I was there, has really resonated with me, and connected to some of my other learning at the conference.  As he was discussing some of his opportunities to travel, someone said to him, “I live my life vicariously through you.”

Ken then responded, “I live my life vicariously through myself.”

#lightbulbmoment

Earlier in the conversation though, Ken shared some turmoil that he had gone through in his career, and the opportunities that he is having now are pretty amazing.  When putting these pieces together, Ken has worked (and continues to work) extremely hard to create what he has and I appreciated that he is living a life that is focusing on what he has, not what he doesn’t.  I am sure that Ken doesn’t have all that he wants in the world, but you couldn’t meet a more positive person.

Connect this to an earlier session with Dean Shareski on “Digital Footprints” at ISTE.  Dean is the type of person that is comfortable discussing the “grey”; he wants to push your thinking, yet wants his challenged as well.  It is one of the reasons that I am so close with him.  We don’t always agree, but we are in a constant pursuit of figuring stuff out, knowing there is no end game.

In the conversation, Dean was sharing his beliefs on showing more of an authentic self online.  What I took away is that we often show only our “highlight reel”, as opposed to some of the stuff that makes us human.  I get this and have seen it often.  Humble bragging has become somewhat of an art form online.  Or maybe that is my perception. A lot of times we can be disappointed that a person we have connected with online, is not the same when we meet them face-to-face, but is this always fair?  Some people feed off the energy of others, while others it tires them out.  Sharing yourself on social media is totally on your time, at your pace, where in person opportunities don’t follow these same rules of engagement.

I have always thought that I hope people are the same in both spaces, but I guess it depends on what you mean on being the “same”.  If you say you love dogs online, but really hate puppies offline, there is an issue.  But if you are more of an extrovert online, but an introvert face-to-face, is there something wrong with that?  Wouldn’t we be totally fine if it was the other way around?

Yet one of the stories from Dean stuck out to me, and he brought it back to my attention.  It is about a college student who ended up committing suicide while her social media painted a different picture than what she was actually going through.  It is an unbelievably tough read and I am sure the family lives with this every single moment, yet it is a very important read. This quote stuck out to me from an ESPN article on this tragic event:

Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self. Hundreds of years ago, we sent letters by horseback, containing only what we wanted the recipient to read. Fifty years ago, we spoke via the telephone, sharing only the details that constructed the self we wanted reflected.

But it is not limited to the picture we paint, but what we see of others:

With Instagram, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another’s edited lives. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered. In a recent survey conducted by the Girl Scouts, nearly 74 percent of girls agreed that other girls tried to make themselves look “cooler than they are” on social networking sites.

Yet as I read this next part, I could hear Ken’s words in my mind:

She seemed acutely aware that the life she was curating online was distinctly different from the one she was actually living. Yet she could not apply that same logic when she looked at the projected lives of others. Before going home for winter break, she asked Ingrid, who was also struggling at Penn, “What are you going to say when you go home to all your friends? I feel like all my friends are having so much fun at school.”

Thinking about my own context and what I choose to share, I think about the “filtered” life I have created.  I definitely have rough patches in my life and tough spots that are my own and not for public consumption, but I also have many awesome moments that I choose not to share with anyone online.  I get the opportunity to travel to many awesome places, and I don’t share everyone of those moments, yet I also go out of my way not to complain about things online as well.  For someone who flies as much as I do, delays are part of my life, but I also know that sometimes these delays are created by things out of a person’s control.

Things that I am not comfortable with; flying on broken planes and into tornadoes.

Things I can deal with; delays where I am still alive, even if that means inconvenience and lack of sleep.

As I think of Ken’s words, the trap has become comparing our lives to the “highlight reel” of others.  To be honest, every time someone shares that they won some award, I think “How come I have never won an award?”, although I wish my default would be to think “that is awesome for them”, and to be grateful for the opportunities I have. This is a critical shift from “deficit comparisons” (why don’t I have that?) to “abundance introspection” (being thankful for what I do have).

Dean pushed my thinking in how we share ourselves, and Ken pushed my thinking on how we compare ourselves to others in these same spaces.

Empathy is a critical component to our world today and I love this quote:

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” —Henry David Thoreau

Empathy teaches us a lot about thinking of what others go through, yet introspection is also important.  Understanding that what we see online is often not the whole picture, and comparing ourselves to others could easily help us lose sight of who we are as individuals. Constantly comparing ourselves to others to some might be motivating, while debilitating to others, and although we often filter our lives online, it is important to apply these same filters when thinking of ourselves.

“Deficit Comparisons” To “Abundance Introspection”

comparing-to-others-quote

There is so much “grey” here but I am trying to write to understand my own learning, so hopefully this is not too disjointed.

Ken Shelton and I have become good friends over the years, but have only had a few interactions.  Sometimes you just meet people that you feel you have known forever, and your relationship just clicks.  Thats my connection with Ken.

One of the things I heard him saying to someone else while I was there, has really resonated with me, and connected to some of my other learning at the conference.  As he was discussing some of his opportunities to travel, someone said to him, “I live my life vicariously through you.”

Ken then responded, “I live my life vicariously through myself.”

#lightbulbmoment

Earlier in the conversation though, Ken shared some turmoil that he had gone through in his career, and the opportunities that he is having now are pretty amazing.  When putting these pieces together, Ken has worked (and continues to work) extremely hard to create what he has and I appreciated that he is living a life that is focusing on what he has, not what he doesn’t.  I am sure that Ken doesn’t have all that he wants in the world, but you couldn’t meet a more positive person.

Connect this to an earlier session with Dean Shareski on “Digital Footprints” at ISTE.  Dean is the type of person that is comfortable discussing the “grey”; he wants to push your thinking, yet wants his challenged as well.  It is one of the reasons that I am so close with him.  We don’t always agree, but we are in a constant pursuit of figuring stuff out, knowing there is no end game.

In the conversation, Dean was sharing his beliefs on showing more of an authentic self online.  What I took away is that we often show only our “highlight reel”, as opposed to some of the stuff that makes us human.  I get this and have seen it often.  Humble bragging has become somewhat of an art form online.  Or maybe that is my perception. A lot of times we can be disappointed that a person we have connected with online, is not the same when we meet them face-to-face, but is this always fair?  Some people feed off the energy of others, while others it tires them out.  Sharing yourself on social media is totally on your time, at your pace, where in person opportunities don’t follow these same rules of engagement.

I have always thought that I hope people are the same in both spaces, but I guess it depends on what you mean on being the “same”.  If you say you love dogs online, but really hate puppies offline, there is an issue.  But if you are more of an extrovert online, but an introvert face-to-face, is there something wrong with that?  Wouldn’t we be totally fine if it was the other way around?

Yet one of the stories from Dean stuck out to me, and he brought it back to my attention.  It is about a college student who ended up committing suicide while her social media painted a different picture than what she was actually going through.  It is an unbelievably tough read and I am sure the family lives with this every single moment, yet it is a very important read. This quote stuck out to me from an ESPN article on this tragic event:

Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self. Hundreds of years ago, we sent letters by horseback, containing only what we wanted the recipient to read. Fifty years ago, we spoke via the telephone, sharing only the details that constructed the self we wanted reflected.

But it is not limited to the picture we paint, but what we see of others:

With Instagram, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another’s edited lives. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered. In a recent survey conducted by the Girl Scouts, nearly 74 percent of girls agreed that other girls tried to make themselves look “cooler than they are” on social networking sites.

Yet as I read this next part, I could hear Ken’s words in my mind:

She seemed acutely aware that the life she was curating online was distinctly different from the one she was actually living. Yet she could not apply that same logic when she looked at the projected lives of others. Before going home for winter break, she asked Ingrid, who was also struggling at Penn, “What are you going to say when you go home to all your friends? I feel like all my friends are having so much fun at school.”

Thinking about my own context and what I choose to share, I think about the “filtered” life I have created.  I definitely have rough patches in my life and tough spots that are my own and not for public consumption, but I also have many awesome moments that I choose not to share with anyone online.  I get the opportunity to travel to many awesome places, and I don’t share everyone of those moments, yet I also go out of my way not to complain about things online as well.  For someone who flies as much as I do, delays are part of my life, but I also know that sometimes these delays are created by things out of a person’s control.

Things that I am not comfortable with; flying on broken planes and into tornadoes.

Things I can deal with; delays where I am still alive, even if that means inconvenience and lack of sleep.

As I think of Ken’s words, the trap has become comparing our lives to the “highlight reel” of others.  To be honest, every time someone shares that they won some award, I think “How come I have never won an award?”, although I wish my default would be to think “that is awesome for them”, and to be grateful for the opportunities I have. This is a critical shift from “deficit comparisons” (why don’t I have that?) to “abundance introspection” (being thankful for what I do have).

Dean pushed my thinking in how we share ourselves, and Ken pushed my thinking on how we compare ourselves to others in these same spaces.

Empathy is a critical component to our world today and I love this quote:

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” —Henry David Thoreau

Empathy teaches us a lot about thinking of what others go through, yet introspection is also important.  Understanding that what we see online is often not the whole picture, and comparing ourselves to others could easily help us lose sight of who we are as individuals. Constantly comparing ourselves to others to some might be motivating, while debilitating to others, and although we often filter our lives online, it is important to apply these same filters when thinking of ourselves.

Positive, Negative or Neutral? Crucial Conversations on Digital Citizenship

THE NE“Along with planes, running water, electricity, and motorized transportation, the internet is now a fundamental fact of modern life.” ― Danah BoydW YOU

Working with students recently, we were discussing digital footprints.  A few students were fine with me googling their names in front of the group, and there was nothing that they were embarrassed of at all.  Lots of social interactions; nothing bad, but nothing good.

I then asked them the following:

Me: Have you been told not to do bad things online?

Student: Yes.

Me: How about good things?

Student: Never.

These particular students were telling me about things that they were doing in their lives that were absolutely amazing and made an impact on so many others, but their online presence would never tell you that.  To share some of the things that they were passionate about and how they served others, was not on their radar.

When I asked them why that was, the “cool factor” came to light.  They shared that as a teen, sometimes sharing the positives of what you do might be up for criticism, and that they were so influenced by their peers.  Sharing the “positives” was not what social media was for.

Is this perhaps because this is a generation being guided only by their peers, and not getting input from adults?

There is part of me where I struggle with suggesting how others use social media.  One part says “leave it alone” because your space is your space. Kids gravitate towards things like snapchat, and then all of sudden educators are trying to figure out how to use snapchat for education.  It reminds me of this scene from 30 Rock with Steve Buscemi:

fellow kids

 

The other part of me says in a world where the majority of our students will be googled for jobs, university, or other things, the more we educate the better.  Would it better if people seeing these footprints were going “Wow!” or “eh”?  In an article that is already five years old, Forbes wrote “5 Reasons Why Your Online Presence Will Replace Your Resume in 10 years“; how have we helped with this reality?

Here are few thoughts that I think are crucial when having these conversations with students:

  1. Is your footprint positive, negative, or neutral?  What would others say that don’t know you?
  2. How do you want to be perceived offline? How about online? Is there a difference in your actions in those spaces?
  3. It is important to show who you are as a person, but to also understand that this is a an open room and to be thoughtful of others.  Have fun but not at the expense of someone else.

I tweeted the following while listening to Alec Couros (my brother) and Dean Shareski at ISTE recently:

The whole notion of “digital citizenship” is a messy conversation, but it is definitely one we need to have with our students to ensure that they have all of the opportunities to find and create their own path moving forward.

Who is defining “student success”?

I read this short little article on the definition of success, and I liked the thinking:

  • Success isn’t about how much money you’ve in your bank account
  • Success isn’t about how much money do you spend on a Saturday night
  • Success isn’t about how big your residence is
  • Success isn’t about wearing high-end clothes
  • Success isn’t about using an iPhone
  • Success isn’t about driving a Mercedes

Success according to me is accomplishing your goal

Be it a small goal or a big goal.

The emphasis on the word “your” is mine, not the author’s.  Why it stuck out to me was more and more in education, are we helping students define their goals, are outside sources defining what success is for them?

Think about it…how often in school is “success” deemed by how you compare to others, not how you have focused on your own goal.

In the shift from focusing on empowerment in schools, not only engagement, how truly empowered are we in being successful based on someone else’s standards?

This is a great quote on the idea of “success”:

success

How determined would one be to work towards someone else’s goal?  And if students aren’t in on the conversation on what “success” means to them, the reality is sometimes they could feel like a failure even though they have met the targets of someone else.

Students need to define what success truly means to them. not just us.