Avatar Building

When we work with kids, we have to be careful about what images of them go out into the universe. Here are some simple avatar building tools to help your students create an image of themselves without their real image.

http://www.buildyourwildself.com

wildself

www.doppelme.com

doppleme

http://www.picassohead.com

picassohead

Where the Magic Happens

Every day, we ask our students to come into our classrooms and try new things. We ask them to stand in front of their peers and speak, or answer a question on freshly learned topics or throw them into new methods of instruction which are far from the safety of pencil and paper activities. Our classrooms house intimidation!

Magic

I once read about a 30+ year veteran teacher who started a new activity every September. She believed it was a way to remind herself about the challenges of being a student. She reasoned that risk taking is hard and learning something new, although exciting, is really intimidating.

I love the image of a grey-haired woman stepping over the chrome engine of a Harley on her first ride, banging away at a drum lesson or leaping into a jazz dance class. She is risk taking. She giving up control. She is experiencing. She lets her self leave her comfort zone and head “where the magic happens.”

Unfortunately, many teachers forget what it’s like to take risks. We become at ease with the topics we cover (our students always seem so shocked, “how do you know all this?” and the answer is often, “I’ve taught it  a lot”). We make excuses for why we won’t or can’t learn something new.

Teachers can be intimidated by technology. There are so many variables in selecting iPad, interactive whiteboard, web activity, collaboration, Google Apps etc. Then, we have to worry about managing those activities once we’ve created them.

My challenge to you: pick something. If it fails? Try again. Do something differently. You’ll get another crack at it in the future. What is there to lose?

MOST IMPORTANTLY:  Let your students guide you. Let the students who know their way around reddit or tumblr show you how to find .gifs or embed videos. Enjoy being a student. Use the classtime to develop a skill or learn a new web too.

The Digital Native

Teaching students in a digital age is taming a very different beast than it was 20 years ago. Some of us might remember the early days of the Icon computer, Commodore 64, early Nintendo, our first “surfing the net” experience and then an ability to — *gasp* — view images on the web without waiting 10 minutes.

This is not the reality for our current students. Many were born after the mass marketing of the internet, were conceived in the DotCom bubble and have grown up with computers, the internet and cell phones in their lives, everyday.

We assume young people born after 1995 have solid computer skills. However, these students were not required to take ‘typing.’ They are unsure of how/where to insert a tab, how to use their word processor to double space their documents and changing file extensions can pose real problems. They can access Google or Facebook, send images and attachments on their emails or smartphones, but few think about how these tasks are achieved by the computer. They are simply ‘done.’

This can pose some significant challenges to educators when students encounter digital-related problems. I’ve seen students go white with panic when their .docx file won’t open on the school computers or burst into tears when You Tube is uncooperative during their presentation and they have no ‘back up’ plan.

The digital native is NOT a digital expert.

The perception of the Digital Native and Digital immigrant isn’t only a trope, but it also creates an unhelpful binary (Bayne and Ross, 2007) of “us” and “them:” those who can feel good about using technology and those who feel less comfortable. A study by White and LeCornu (2011) suggest the best way to see the differences in people’s comfort in using technology can be summed up as “visitor” and “resident;” the former is less likely to have a large online presence and ‘dabbles’ in interwebs connections, whereas the latter has a large footprint in social and content-based online media.

Part of our role as teacher, even if we’re Visitors, is to help them to learn more about the systems which will be forever tied to their lives: computers. We can help them build resilience. We must console and encourage baby steps for those pupils who claim, ‘computers hate me!’ We can show them how to problem solve using a web search.

CBC’s Spark has an excellent segment on this very topic. Check it out.

This study (March 2012) looks at the Millennial habits for online searches. How can we improve this for our students?

Wikipedia by Another Name

Our students love and rely on Wikipedia. I constantly remind them it’s a great resource for ‘general knowledge’ but they should not use it as a source on papers. I teach them to ‘mine’ the footnotes at the end of the documents to access more reputable sources.
There are many students who struggle with the vocabulary and heavy text of the original Wikipedia. Luckily, there’s been some pretty genius online sources which use the data from Wikipedia to make more accessible options.
Other Ways to Search Wikipedia
10 Word Wiki (gives you summary in 10 words exactly)
  – this might be inspiration for neat writing activity too!
Simple English Wikipedia (for kids, English Language Learners or for those who need a simpler version)
Wiki Mind Maps – connects ideas within Wikipedia links for word association
The Wiki Game (use the links to connect unrelated ideas – the 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon for the web)