Coding Adventure Part 1.5

As Alec mentioned, I am woefully behind in updating on my coding adventure.

I’ve been exploring some apps for coding, like Learn to Code with Python (which is shown in the gif below), Code School, Py – Learn to Code, and with Wing 101, which I’ve been using to “actually” code on the computer, not just on my phone.

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Coding on my phone seems much more limited than on a computer, though it’s been much more accessible (I was waiting in my doctor’s office last week and was trying out these different apps while I waited — I mean, what else am I going to do??)

Along with the coding, I’ve been learning other skills. Like the gif above. I made that from screenshots on my phone using Google Photos. I’m also playing around with different screencasting programs. I initially used Screencast-o-matic and for the next videos I tried Screencastify. I can’t say for sure which I like better, but Screencastify will upload to my drive but Screencast-o-matic is just a tiny bit more user friendly.

But I digress.

Coding is a lot harder than I thought. I am having a harder time than I thought keeping up with documenting. Documenting doesn’t always happen due to time/place, but I have been trying different aspects of coding. I guess it’s time for me to settle down and finalize what I’m doing (spoiler alert: it’s a fancy calculator. I try and start it in my video)

Wish me luck as I attempt to finish my calculator!

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Share and Share Alike

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Sharing seems to be a common thread through my Master’s degree. The concept of sharing has dogged my every class in some fashion, whether it is sharing content or sharing ideas. It seems “sharing” is something a lot of teachers struggle with.

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I think the biggest personal barrier to my sharing with others is the concept of not being good enough to share. As I indicated in a previous post, teachers, in my experience, have an inferiority complex when it comes to their own work. Teachers are constantly comparing themselves to each other and how much better another teacher is doing something compared to what they’re doing now.

As a teacher, I’m always on the lookout for the next cool thing, but I can also see how some teachers like what they do because they’ve done it for  so long that to do something else would be very uncomfortable. So they don’t seek out new ideas or lessons. It seems that teaching is a profession of extremes: you either share or you don’t. There doesn’t seem to be very much middle ground that way.

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As Dean Shareski says, I think teachers have an obligation to share ideas and content because teaching can be such a collaborative profession, if you let it. If there’s no sense of collegiality fostered, it is too easy to shut your door and do your own thing for the next 40 years. It’s contingent on teachers to share with each other and to reach out to others, without waiting to be approached first.

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I think in order to create a culture where sharing is encouraged, there has to be a value placed on it, from above. If sharing amongst teachers is considered a priority, if creating things collaborative becomes paramount, there will be a corresponding increase in sharing with teachers. But, right now, teachers are strapped for time and are limited on resources, mentally, physically, and time-wise. Teachers are stretched thin. Sharing becomes a back burner issue when just getting through the day and planning a lesson at a time is life. (I find this especially true with new preps — I have all new preps this semester and have never felt so like a first-year teacher again!)

If teaching were to have an oath, like the Hippocratic one, I think the first commandment would be: First, share and share reserving judgment.

OER Commons

For my OER, I chose to look at the OER Commons. This to me seemed to be the hub from which all spokes derived.

Before I begin, I’d like to shout out to Awesome Screenshot for making this blog entry so painless!

The following is a review of their website in terms of accessibility, interface, content, and visual appeal.

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At first glance, their website seems open and their tag line of “Explore. Create. Collaborate” inviting. So far, so good.

Under their heading banner is a way to create lesson plans to freely share with other educators, like Teachers Pay Teachers, without the paying part. I was interested to see how many lessons or documents teachers are freely sharing with their colleagues, when options to be paid for this work exist (beyond your actual job, obviously). In order to create lessons or resources, you need to login through their system. I created an account in order to see what the process would be like.

Edit Lesson   OER Commons.pngAs you can see from the screenshot, it looks like they use WordPress to create their lessons, as my avatar from WordPress is in the corner. The text editing is smooth and user friendly, perhaps because I was already used to WordPress.

I really liked that I could preview my lesson as a student or as a fellow educator to see what they would see when accessing it.

Next, I went to explore other “hubs” to see what they offered, or where they would take me:

Network Hubs   OER Commons.pngThe list seems massive! Unless I knew exactly what I was looking for, I think I would feel incredibly overwhelmed by the choices presented. Some of the resources were other ones Alec suggested in the Weekly Outline and some were new to me. The one that interested me the most was the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers.

It is a repository of professional resources for teachers:

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This seems like a really neat resource to use as a teacher in order to inform practice, both as a professional and as a way to introduce things to students.

What was really interesting was this:

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It’s a list of countries and organizations which have adopted the system created by UNESCO. The list of countries include places which are generally seen as “third world” or in need of reform in their educational systems. Does this mean that perhaps they’re taking more steps forward than first world countries in adopting a framework such as this?

OER Commons is a vast network of available resources for teachers and students to take advantage of. It seems user-friendly, authentic, and a really neat way to access numerous free lessons and modules to aid in teaching. I think by using this a teacher could possibly make their learning and teaching more global as the resources come from across the globe.

Education for All

Education for All
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I have so many thoughts on open education. I’m trying to get them in order so that I sound somewhat coherent.

I am conflicted about the idea of open education.

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On one hand, open education is just that. Open, free. No holds barred. Places like Harvard have open courses available online. But, something tells me that if I turned up at the STF with a certificate I printed out at home saying I now have a degree from Harvard I would be laughed out of the building.

However, this goes against what I stand for we we discuss democratization of education . I believe education should be open and available to everyone. Having education as a paid concept is a very capitalist movement that goes against the Marxist that lurks beneath the surface of my heart.

I’m all for education that’s open, which is why I’m a public school teacher. This article by the Independent has a whole list of universities which offer free (or almost free) education to their students.

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But, the conundrum I run into is am I legally allowed to offer free education? Can I offer or post something to the internet in the name of open education within my ethical limitations?

I am paid by the Regina Board of Education, who in turn derives money from taxpayers. By allowing someone else to use something I created using taxpayer money, am I violating some kind of ethics? The person using my work may be half way across the world and have no connection to me.

This concept really hit home with Larry Lessig’s video on Laws that Choke Creativity and then with Everything is a Remix. Is my creativity being stifled? Is my students? How do I balance my obligations to my employer while still honouring my desire for a free, open education? Who are these laws really protecting in the end? The trespassers (to borrow a phrase from the video) or the people on the ground? How original is my work in the end? As a teacher, you’re always told “don’t reinvent the wheel” in terms of creating new material.

These thoughts led me to this declaration:

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If education is then framed like this, money doesn’t matter. Respecting human rights becomes the most important thing.

Education belongs to all and I’ll end with a quote (which speaks to me as an English teacher):

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YES.

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Photo Source: IndyRef2

In a simple answer to this week’s blog prompt: yes.

YES social activism can be meaningful and worthwhile.

YES we can have meaningful discussions about social justice online.

It is our duty as educators to make our students see the world beyond the classroom. In order to teach this effectively, we must first participate. As educators, we need to experience the online world so that we can show our students how it works. It’s just like any other discipline: to become an English teacher I had to take classes on literature, on reading and writing, and I had to write essays (so. many. essays.)

Since I was educated on this subject, I feel confident in teaching it to my students.

It is the same thing with social justice. We must apply ourselves to it, as if it were any other discipline: experience it. Live it. Teach it.

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Katia’s comment in her blog post In Online Spaces, Silence Speaks Louder than Words, her final comment:

We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to social inequities and injustices. We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk.

made me think about “risking” my privilege, in regards to social activism. Christina’s post about slacktivism and band wagon jumping made me think about privilege and social cache in being “seen” to support causes.

The Atlantic piece on social activism as a meme reveals a more selfish part of the concept of supporting something. The piece discusses the Paris attacks in November 2015. Facebook created a way to have a temporary filter over a Facebook profile picture so that people could express solidarity at their convenience. If your Facebook photo wasn’t changed to reflect support for Paris, there was a question of whether or not you really supported Paris in their time of need or not.

The pray for campaigns that come up on social media relentlessly is experiencing blow back as people start to think about how clicks or likes don’t equal actual help as the below video from UNICEF points out.

This graphic from Popular Science shows just how (in)effective liking something on social media is when translating back to real action.

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So how does this translate to the classroom?

As teachers we must be aware of the disconnect between liking something on social media and taking action. Social media can spur people into taking ownership of something, but there has to be a connection, somehow, to their immediate life. Some tangible way to take part. As the bar graph above shows, if someone is connected to personally, privately, they’re more likely to volunteer their time to assisting a charity etc than if they just like something on social media.

So Long, Mr Cronkite.

Gone are the days of the “Most Trusted Man in America“, Walter Cronkite.

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Photo Source: Socio-Economics History Blog

No longer do media consumers have someone who they trust as the voice of the news. Media outlets increasingly are subject to their own bias, due to parent companies’ agendas, of which, there are fewer and fewer (ahem, PostMedia).

The world of media is also becoming increasingly complex. Students are having to create new skill sets in order to combat the deluge of untrustworthy news. There is a greater push for students to recognize fake news when they see it: CNN, Globe and Mail, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR (and many more) report initiatives undertaken by schools and governments to educate children on what they consume via media.

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Photo Source: IFLA

There are numerous ways to to analyse a “news” article from various media and educational sources: BBC, IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions), How Stuff WorksCommon Sense Media, and interestingly, AARP (an American  business for those 50 and older).

In her blog, Shelby Mackey wrote about the importance of research in the B30 classroom. This is a key idea, because the entire B30 curriculum is based around analysing global issues in an in-depth manner. Students need to be familiar with how to research and how to evaluate.

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In one of my classes, Theory of Knowledge, we’re looking at how to tell if something is scientifically verifiable and the concept of peer-reviewed research.

For all of their experience researching (and by this point in their high school careers as IB diploma kids, they’ve done a lot), the term “peer reviewed” was foreign.

This was slightly frightening to me, as these students are expected to produce university-quality research papers quite regularly.

The easiest way I’ve found to examine fake news is to look at wildly imaginative examples of scientific claims:

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Photo Source: Goop Psychic Vampire Repellent

We look at the website source (it seems legitimate: high-powered Hollywood actress, recognizable name brands, shiny website). It passes the test of credibility on first glance.

Next we look at the product more closely (ingredient include: Sonically tuned water, rosewater, grain alcohol, sea salt, therapeutic grade oils of: rosemary, juniper and lavender; a unique and complex blend of gem elixirs, including but not limited to: black tourmaline, lapis lazuli, ruby, labradorite, bloodstone, aqua aura, black onyx, garnet, pyrite and nuummite; reiki, sound waves, moonlight, love, reiki charged crystals)

Wait. What?! Sound waves? Moonlight?

And so we begin a discussion of looking underneath all of the shine to find the scary. Granted not everything is fake. But enough of it is.

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Photo Source: BBC (Viewing habits of children influenced by parents)

Ryan Wood brought up a really good point about how scary the world has become in raising our own children. It has now become a matter of teaching our own children about “fake news”. My family used to have cable and watch news every night, like Ryan’s family, but we cut the cord. CTV, CBC. Global were all trusted beyond any doubt and now, I need to carefully screen what we view as news. My son is becoming more and more aware of what is happening in the world (case in point, we were driving home, and the CBC news came on. They were explaining the bombing in Somalia and my son worriedly asked about the 2783 people who were injured or killed). My job as a parent has changed from what I anticipated it would be, even four years ago.

But, for better or worse, that’s the way it is.