I can't believe this is my first blog post of 2024. In case you missed my last blog post, this year, my #oneword2024 is #author. I chose this word because I want to focus on not just telling my story, but creating experiences that celebrate milestones coming this year and also pursuing professional growth opportunities. Two weeks in, I am off to a great start. Since 2024 began, I have run 37.45 miles and yesterday, I hit a new personal record with a 10 min 35 sec mile on my 7 mile run using 4 minute run/1 minute walk intervals. In addition, I am working on two different articles for publications and have submitted 2 more articles for review. Plus, I have some other exciting projects in 2024 in the wings that I can't wait to share with you once they are ready.

TransformED: Amplifying Learning Using Tech Tools

Four weeks ago,  I focused on how we can create experiences for our learners to make positive contributions online and  by doing so, build relationships and a sense of community.  Many times when we discuss interacting with the digital world, we focus on what not to do rather than how to leverage our digital interactions for good. In a world that is changing faster than we could have ever expected, we need to help our learners see the possibilities available to them and how to use them positively.

This week,  we will focus on how you, as an educator, can create a learning culture that not only encourages your learners to pursue their interests and passions, but also to view online resources with a critical eye as they do so. It is vital that we help our learners to better understand best practices for using online resources, while also helping to understand whether or not a source is credible or not. With the amazing resources at our disposal with Artificial Intelligence and generative AI, we all have responsibility to help our students determine the validity of the sources they encounter.

How can I help my learners to become responsible and engaged digital citizens?

When we think of integrity, we think of people who know right from wrong, people who know right from wrong, and people who make ethical choices. It can be easy to feel anonymous in an online world, and use that assumed anonymity as a shield, thinking that what you do online doesn't matter. But that assumption is not factual- all of our actions contribute to our digital footprint. We have a choice- are we going to act with integrity or not. Our students are digital natives who have grown up with technology surrounding them. It is our responsibility, as educators, to show them the right ways to contribute online and how they can use a digital world to help our world.

Creating an Engaging Learning Culture

If you look at the ISTE Standards for Educators, you will find that they advocate for educators to "establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity." A learning culture that is based on curiosity should be one based on students' interests and having students ask questions based on those passions and interests. By doing this, we can better engage our students and build a compelling learning culture with our students. So this week, we will focus on some ways that you can better engage your students.

Passion Projects

The ideas behind passion projects is to have your students choose topics related to their interests. You might also see these type of projects called Genius Hour. This school year, I have gotten the opportunity to work with fifth and sixth grade students on passion projects based on their interests. Starting something like this can be challenging and I'll be honest that getting my students to think outside the box and try new things but luckily, there are some great resources available to help educators like us. Check out these resources to get you started ":

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a problem-solving process that takes has people go through a series of steps to better understand the challenge and then determine solutions for the problem.  Students start this process by looking at the challenge and using empathy to develop a better understanding of the challenge. Next, using data gathered during the empathy phase, they define the problem that they want to solve. After, they brainstorm possible solutions and determine one that they want to fully develop. They use this idea to create a prototype and then test and refine their solution to improve their design.  Last year, I worked with fifth and sixth grade students to use design thinking as we created a student tech team. Here are some of the resources that I used.

Determining the Credibility of Resources

But engaging our students is only part of the puzzle, we also need to make sure that they understand how to determine whether a resource is credible or not. There is so much information available at their digital fingerprints and we need to provide them with the tools to make these important determinations. We live in a world where deep fakes can be created with generative AI and sometimes, AI can produce hallucinations when sharing results.  We need to prepare our students to navigate through these challenges.

Consider Using Common Sense Education

Common Sense Media has many amazing resources that can help educators and their students in this pursuit. One of my favorite parts of their website are lessons dedicated to news and media literacy. These lessons start at Grade K when lessons help our students determine if something that they see online is true or not. By Grade 9, lessons address hoaxes and fakes. Definitely check out these lessons on their website by clicking News and Media Literacy You should also check out their grab and go lessons for students in grades 6-12 on AI Literacy. These resources are a great plan for both educators and their students to first understand generative AI and then to prepare students for the future.

Next Steps

Consider how you establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity. What ideas do you have? Are there any that I should add to my toolbox or maybe I shared one that sparked your interest?  I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below.

A reminder and a huge thanks to Kyle Hill for hosting the Recharge Learning Virtual Bash that features 50 workshops and  is offering free access to everyone who reads my blog to the Bash until June 2024.  Click this link to join. Two of my sessions are included in this bash too.