Thursday, June 27, 2013

Flipping - The Ugly

So far I've shared the good and the bad of flipping and in this post I will focus on the 'ugly' (Although, as usual, I'll try to put a positive spin on the situation.) Before I talk about the whole purpose of this post, I feel as though I need to give some background.

As a teacher, I have always put a huge emphasis on choices. I try to incorporate mini character education lessons as often as I can. (Not necessarily planned lessons all the time. I just try to use anything that comes up daily to teach the students about making positive choices...) Also, for the past two years, I've helped organize a whole school, full day event called Choices Day. This event focuses on three areas: Character Choices, Health Choices and Safety Choices.  I was very proud of Choices Day and hoped that the students would remember some of the sessions they attended throughout the school year. I also helped organize a monthly parent involvement series called, It Takes A Village. One of the topics throughout the year was on Internet Safety.....So now back to flipping.....

I used many Web 2.0 tools especially toward the end of the school year and each time I introduced a new tool, I talked to the students about making smart choices online. I told the students that no matter what they write online it could be traced back to them. I'm not sure if they understood or believed me but I felt that my warning should be enough to keep them from making poor choices online. I always wrote a letter to the parents and I even had students sign a contract before using any tools online.

I decided to increase my use of online tools because I saw so many of the benefits. Conducting a weekly chat room allowed me to offer extra homework help or time to discuss topics that we typically wouldn't get to during class. Flipping allowed me to extend my class time to differentiate my instruction as well as offer my students a platform to connect with one another outside of school. Blogging increased my students' desire to write and create digital portfolios, etc.

However, less than a month after I started this increase in technology (many of it centered around flipping), I had a huge problem on my hands that made me question if I should stop and go back to my normal teaching methods...

Not long after I created many accounts for the students on many different sites, a few extremely tech-savvy students decided to push the boundaries. They created fake accounts and posted inappropriate comments for all students to see. Luckily I saw the comments and deleted them before nearly any students saw them. But, I realized I had a BIG problem on my hands.

I pride myself on creating a safe classroom environment and quickly the online communities that I started building began to fall short of what I would deem as a 'safe.' I was so disappointed. I was mad. I was frustrated.....

The company deleted the fake accounts created by my students and, in two days, they were able to trace the accounts using the IP Addresses from the students' home computers.  Boy, did this wake me up and it woke my students up!

I knew my students were online at home and it was just a matter of time before they were required to be online at school. Should I delete everything and leave it up to the next teacher to handle? Or should I take the situation as a learning experience for both myself and my students?

I chose the latter and I'm glad I did. I talked to the students in much more depth about making good choices online. I dedicated an hour or so to the topic of Digital Citizenship.  The lesson comprised of 5 sections:

1.) Educational Purpose (Vehicle) - How each tool gets the students from a different point A to point B
2.) Following Teacher Instructions
3.) Leaving Your Fingerprint
4.) Poor Choices
5.) Showing Good Character

Honestly, it was one of the best, if not THE best lesson I taught all year. It was by far one of the most important. The students were fully engaged. They asked great questions. We talked more about each student's presence online not just on school created accounts. We talked about Instagram, Vine, YouTube, and Kik. The 'gamers' in my class were quite vocal as they shared how they frequently are harassed while they play. I taught the students about IP Addresses and how every click of the mouse or stroke of keyboard really can be traced. They shared about more experiences than I expected and I shared some personal stories too. I learned from them - and they learned from me. It was a great lesson!

The students can't avoid being online and as teachers we must EDUCATE students about how to use each tool effectively. So, if you're planning on flipping or using any tools that put your students online, please be sure to put a huge emphasis on Digital Citizenship and be sure you cover all your bases. There are MANY online resources that focus on digital citizenship. Find what works for you and the grade level of students you teach. Here are a few of my suggestions:

1.) Inform your administration of all online tools you plan to use and check with your administration to see if there is a plan in place if students make poor choices online. (Most school districts have AUP's, however they may not cover everything that you may intend to use.)
2.) Inform parents of expectations
3.) Inform the students of their responsibilities
4.) If a student makes a poor choice - just like in real life - use it as a learning experience.
5.) Finally, carefully teach digital citizenship (just like we would character education!)  - Speak frankly to the students - don't try to scare them - but be honest.  But also don't be naive and expect that you won't encounter any problems!

Below is a four minute video that hopefully will make you think, hence the title. Being online has many pros and the possibilities seem endless. Just like anything, we must prepare our students not just for the present, but more importantly, for the future!

("We Think" link:

Lesson #9 - Kids are growing up on a digital playground and no one is on recess duty!

We must model the kinds of behavior we would like to see from our students. - Stephen Balkan

What are some of your experiences with your students online? Have you encountered any 'ugly' situations that you tried to turn into positive learning experiences? Share your thoughts!

Thanks for reading,
Arin (@ArinKress)

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