How the heck did it get to week 6 already!

Well it is now week six since I have been back in the classroom. A lot has happened and as a class we have progressed quite a ways!

One of the things that we have tried was the kids creating their own schedules. It just happened at sort of the perfect time when other than math, they were working on projects to finish in each subject area. I was struggling to effectively teach the math lessons because of the levels of the students. While racking my brain for an idea, I thought why don’t I teach math in smaller groups while the rest of the class gets on with work.

What I didn’t want though was the students coming to pester me for what to do next. So if they had a plan for their day then they could just get on with work. So I created a template for the day that they would fill out for themselves in the morning. The top of the page had a list of the items that they needed to completed. Below you can see an example of what a student did on her sheet.

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I also wanted the students to be responsible for their learning. In order to do this I make a section in their daily plan for them to place a short comment about what they had done during their time and where I could find it.

One of the things I found is that I was able to have shorter, quicker math lessons with the students which were more targeted and allowed them to get to work practicing their math skills. This was good but I was finding that the students was that I was still having trouble teaching math lessons and hitting everyone’s levels as they needed.

This got me thinking and I decided to try recording myself teaching the math lessons. This would allow each student to access the lesson when they were ready not when I was. This also freed me up to help more students when they needed my assistance.  So I created a document that allows them to access the links to the recordings and gives them the problems that are do from their problem set packets. They can also find the recordings on their class website.

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What this has allowed me to do is allow the students to work through the math lessons as fast as they want. I still set an expectation for what lesson they should have completed by what day, but they can work through those lessons at their own pace.

We have had to put this on hold for a bit since we have now gotten to a point where we are working on lessons that don’t lend themselves to this practice, but I hope to be back working this way again before the end of school.

I have enjoyed making the math lessons for the kids but I have also realized that I say “so” way too often! The kids even point it out to me now!

We also had a wonderful opportunity to work with a Grade 2 classroom to learn about reading Signposts. The Grade 2 students learned about the Contrasts and Contradictions signpost and then taught my kids how to look for them in a piece of reading. The Grade 2 students were excited to teach the Grade 4 students. This week it will be our turn we hope!

In Reading we are also reading any book that they want from the book room. At first I think they thought that this would mean that they could just read and that would be it, but ha ha ha they don’t know me that well yet! Anyway they are creating Booksnaps of their book. A Booksnap is like a social media post for your book. The image below is the Booksnap from a student’s book about the setting of her book.

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Our current unit of inquiry is in the PYP Theme of Sharing the PlanetScreen Shot 2019-05-27 at 7.59.54 PM.png

We have tons of interesting experiences within this unit which you can see some of on the class website link.

 

Back at it – Part 2

Well we survived week 1!

I am enjoying being back in the classroom. The kids and I are getting our routines and expectations sorted. Going paperless is proving easier than I though as long as I just make myself stop each time I want to print something and think about another option.

For example I have switched the homework to being completely paperless, which is awesome because I don’t have to wait until Friday to mark it. Most of the students turn it in before the due date so I have a look at it and make comments and return it before Friday even rolls around. Today I began getting next week’s ready and one of the students happened to be in the room, I let her choose the slide theme. Then she pointed out that the Reading homework was the same and said we should read something like a blog, and I went ding ding ding! I need to find an article that connects to our unit so within 5 minutes I had two articles pulled up which I will choose from tomorrow. Ran out of time today!

I also love the idea that I can see how they are thinking and processing by looking at what they type as they type it. We had an activity this week where they watched 3 videos with automation in them and they then tried to make connections to our key concepts of Function, Causation, and Connection. Some were finding it difficult and some were just being lazy and going for the quick answer. That was until they noticed that I was leaving them comments as they typed to ask them for more details. It was easy for me to see who might be struggling without me distracting them. Now you may say but you could do the same thing by walking around the room and reading over their shoulders, which would be correct, but this class gets distracted by that type of activity. So I am trying my technique to see if it both helps them stay on task and helps them give their best answer.

I am also using all of the resources I have available to me. Maureen, our Literacy Coordinator, is coming in and helping me teach poetry, which I am hopeless at, but getting better thanks to being taught how to write it with my kids. Check out some of our work here.

I have also enlisted Ryan, my co-integrationist, and Beth, our PYP coordinator’s help in teaching fractions, which I am not great at either! As with Poetry I am learning lots of new things about both how to teach math and how to do math!

I have gotten good feedback from the parents about our 4MS website which we basically update daily. I have also gotten good feedback from the parents about the homework so all is good at the moment, but Spring is in the air and hormones will kick in soon so I fully expect the honeymoon period to end soon!

Returning to the Classroom – Part 1

For the rest of the year I will be covering for a grade for maternity leave. I’m excited about this temporary change because it gives me a chance to put into practice some of the theories and ideas that I’ve had about connected classrooms, but haven’t been able to try in a classroom environment myself. For example, when I was getting myself organized to go back into the classroom with a class list and checklist sheets, first I created them with the idea that I would print them, and then I realized I have an iPad therefore I have no need for printing! That got me thinking about what else I could migrate to an electronic version only. I already use Google slides to post the morning directions, and to put directions for activities onto the board. That led me to think about other ways I could use technology with regards to my classroom.

One of my ideas was to create this website (note that not all docs will be accessible). I’ve explained to my students that this will be like a bulletin board that they can access at home. My idea behind the website is to have it mirror the bulletin boards that are in the classroom, with the same items that you would normally have on those boards such as anchor charts, central ideas, vocabulary, brainstorms etc. This would allow students the opportunity to have something that they can access at home if they want to refer to any of the vocabulary or ideas that we developed in class. This would be especially useful if they are doing work at home.

One of the other things I like about the website is that it can be built together with the students in the classroom as we do and create things. For example, when we make a class definition, we can type it onto the website straight away. This enables the students see their ideas on the screen, which they can use as a reference when they’re thinking around those ideas and topics. They can use the definitions that we develop in class without having to try to remember what the were.

At this school the students are still given homework. In this particular classroom, the homework, until this week, consisted of a piece of paper glued into a notebook containing the homework activity tasks. The task was then completed on pages inside the notebook. This week, I started the homework with a slideshow. Instead of a piece of paper, they have a slide for each activity. This means they can either do the work on paper, take a picture of it and put it into the slideshow, or do the work directly in the slideshow. Some of the students in this class are from the Grade Two class that we trialed this with two years ago. This means that some of them are already familiar with the system. I was pleased to see the students excited about their homework as I presented this new system. Additionally, having the homework in Google Classroom allows me to grade it bit by bit, instead of having to wait until the very end of the week to look at it. It also means that it’s easy for me to put things up onto the board if we have something that connects to what we’re studying in class. For example, this week, the students were asked to find a poem in their native language to share with the class. When we share these, it will be much easier for me to click into all of their Google Classroom assignments instead of trying to go to their notebooks.

One of the things that I’m struggling with the moment is the fact that this class did not have a very high iPad use before I came and I’m seeing behaviors that I saw in my last school the first year we handed out the iPads. Behaviors like students spending more time decorating pages in Book Creator than putting content on pages. Also, students are playing with their iPads as opposed to using it as a tool. I know that this is just growing pains and they behaviours that they will grow out of quickly as they further understand my expectations of them around technology use.

Privacy

There is also the discussion to be had about privacy around these records which maybe I will write a post on at a later date!

So, that sentence is how I finished my last post. So that is where I will start this one. The problem with public records and privacy was briefly mentioned in the part of the documentary we watched on Aaron Swartz. The issue is that anything that is public record is technically freely available for anyone to access, but that it also contains personal data about anyone involved. It can contain every bit of personal data that someone may need to cause you all kinds of issues.

I for one know that this is an absolute fact. I used to work for a lawyer in Memphis. While I was working for them I was sent to the courthouses and county records offices many times. It is very, very easy to get copies of lawsuits that have been filed with the courts, you only need to go to the office and request a file by the case number, if you don’t have that don’t worry there is a giant book that you can look through where all cases have been registered and you can just scan it and pick a number! Once you have done this you are given a copy of the lawsuit in its entirety, without any information being withheld. So if any personal information about you is in that lawsuit then, well anyone can get it.

Another place to get this information is the county clerks office. I once had to drop off one of the lawyer’s car registration and outside the office were two huge books. One with every car registered with that office by license plate number and one by name. They weren’t even inside the office these were sitting in the hallway where anyone could walk up and get them. Not only did it have the person’s name but their current address as well.

So I find it very funny that the very people, the gov’t, that are creating privacy laws to “protect” us, are some of the worst offenders of breaches of privacy.

Another area that scares me about privacy is all of this family history DNA. There are some laws around DNA protection. One being the GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act), which only really protects you from being discriminated by for employment and health insurance. It does not protect your privacy and as you can see in this quote it doesn’t even protect you in all areas of insurance. I find it interesting that the three areas were you are likely to need insurance because of a genetic condition, long-term, life and disability are all excluded from this law, but possibly covered by others. This kind of thing is what allows for abuses to happen more easily because it confuses the process.

Federal and military insurance. Lastly, the law does not cover long-term care insurance, life insurance, or disability insurance. Beyond GINA, additional laws and policies do offer other protections against genetic discrimination (see “Genetic Discrimination and Other Laws” page).  (NHGRI, 2017)

What amazes me is that there are tons of people who are applying for these tests, including my own relatives, and they may or may not have considered that they are giving these organizations permission to test their DNA. According to two sites I looked at the DNA is still owned and controlled by you.  I question this because we all know that at any point these organizations can change their user agreements and you have no way to fight that. Also, all of this information is being stored electronically and well all know that there are backups of backups all over the internet so how would you know if your data is protected. I for one use Ancestry.com and I know that it isn’t that hard to copy records from one person’s account to another person’s account. So while you may delete the data whose to say someone else doesn’t have it.

https://www.ancestry.com/cs/legal/PrivacyForAncestryDNATesting

Also from their own website:

Note: If you have given your consent to participate in ongoing research efforts and you delete your results, we will stop using information about you in any future research. However, information cannot be withdrawn from studies in progress, completed studies, or published results.

If your data has gone into a study then you have lost control over it!

The second site I found, Family Tree DNA, seems to be run by a university. Which may offer a bit more protection than a private company. But again what happens if these companies are sold, go bankrupt or change their agreements. How are you protected?

Now at no point am I suggesting more ridiculous laws like GDPR, which just cause more issues than they solve. What I am suggesting is that it is time for governments to stop trying to put band-aids on problems after the fact and get some people who understand what is coming and what is possible and have them start working on solutions.

 

 

“The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.” (2017, April 17)National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), www.genome.gov/27568492/the-genetic-information-nondiscrimination-act-of-2008/.

Going down the Rabbit Hole

Last week we spent our class looking at arguments around who owns the code. This is a very interesting argument and one that I can see both sides. There are the people who say…

“I wrote it, I built it, I spent my time, it was my idea so it is mine.”

Then there are people who say…

“If I buy it I should be able to see how it is made and go in an customise it for my own purposes”

I think that this is a question that has no real answer. One analogy that was made was that if you buy a house but the builder locks the basement and doesn’t give you the key how is that “buying a house”. I can totally see that side but when I purchase a painting, I do not have the rights to all of the sketches, drafts, and ideas that the artist has had around that painting.

But really there is no real answer to these questions because it is a cyclical argument neither side is 100% right or 100% wrong, both are right in some ways and wrong in someways or in some circumstances.

 

I do think that there is an answer to some of the questions about who owns some of the data that is on the internet. One of the documentaries we watched was about Aaron Swartz who had strong feelings about access to data on the internet. Data that if it were not on the internet would otherwise be free to access.

Personally, I think that these are areas that the internet has huge potential to change for the better. For as long as information has been accessible there have always been limitations. In the early days it was literacy, then came language of print being different from the language of literacy (for example Latin texts), then came access being denied because the data was locked away because it was expensive to make or at least that was the excuse (books being chained to libraries).

These days it is still about access because most ‘public’ data is stored in locations that may be difficult or expensive to get to.  If you can get access to the physical space you may then run into difficulties with permission to copy the data or costs of gaining a copy. I have myself run into this when doing family history research. All of the documents that I wanted were public access if I went to the county courthouse. But once I got there I had to pay something like $.10 a sheet for really, really crappy photocopies of books that were twice as big as the photocopier in the first place!

So the way the internet can help is if the government spends their money digitizing these records so that people can gain access from any location. This sounds like a simple solution. It is actually relatively cheap and in 2018 even simple to accomplish. This is where Aaron Swartz ran into the issue though. While the documents that are in public records are free you still have to pay for them. Yes, you read that right you still have to pay for them.

According to the documentary, the government should only be able to charge what it costs to make the documents public. The reality is that this is a big money business. Just take a look at JSTOR for example which is a non-profit which makes quite a lot of money from allowing users to access documents such as published journal articles. Most of which are free if you can get access to a library that they are housed in.

Going back my personal experience I have been doing family history and all of the documents that I am looking for are public access but only if I want to travel to the National Archives in Washington, DC. Because I cannot physically go there I have to rely on the internet. What I have found is that Ancestry.com has a contract with the National Archives, which goes something like this. Since Ancestry is a part of the Church of Latter-day Saints and one of the elements of that church is to do genealogy research, they have a vested interest in archives. So they have contracted with the Archives to scan all documents relating to family histories if they receive sole rights to the digital copies for a period of time and then in theory that data will become publicly accessible via the web.

The issue here is that Ancestry is a publically traded for-profit company that is selling access to public records. Yes, you get more than just access and they probably argue that the extras are the part you are paying for, but let’s face it they are making money off of data that should be free to access.

There are way more things to discuss around data access,  like legal documents (which are a huge breach of privacy, FYI!), government official documents, police records, etc. etc.

There is also the discussion to be had about privacy around these records which maybe I will write a post on at a later date!

 

 

 

Feel free to read some more about some of these ideas and more:

While not about access to data Astroturfing is a problem about the validity of data.

Analog vs Digital Rights

Who owns digital files downloaded from cloud services?

Who owns digital content?

This video is about how to control the data being transmitted by your email.

Hello, Hello, hello, hello, hello – The Echo Chambers of the internet

Last week we talked about the idea of who controls and makes the content that is being distributed nowadays. This was very interesting to discuss because they conjure up to different responses in people.

When you say someone is “controlling” the content that you receive, generally people get a bit taken back and want to find out more and discover how to stop someone else from “controlling” it. But in reality, you are controlling it most of the time. The algorithms that are being used are looking at what you do and then curating your content around those things.

This is great if you have a hobby and want to spend time online doing more things and reading more things around that hobby. This is not so great though if you want to see more different types of things. In order to see more, you have to make an effort to go out and find things because the social media systems that you are using are not going to offer you “off the wall/out of the box” things to view. This is very obvious to me on my news feed on my phone. It is very, very travel-centric. This is simply because I open and read those articles so obviously, I want to read more of them. In order to change my feed, I need to actively search for other things that I am interested in. One of the best ways I have found to do this is to share my new service with someone else. My mother and I, for example, read the same news app but not always the same articles. She will often highlight an article that I have completely skipped that I, in fact, enjoyed reading when I opened it. The problem comes in that fact that this does not happen in a way that affects my algorithms. So I still mostly get the travel stuff on my phone.  I wonder if there is a way that we could link our accounts so that we could affect each other’s algorithms! Hmmmmm, new app idea anyone!

Anyway… This system of being curated too is I think one of the issues we have today with people finding themselves in echo chambers. In this instance, I mean an echo chamber in the sense that you are surrounded in your social media by people that the algorithms see you as being like-minded with. This is in my opinion what is leading to the current tension in many areas of the world. You start out in this echo chamber of something that sounds positive or helpful but it can turn into something else and begin to get out of control without people realizing it. This was mentioned in the block post I wrote earlier about the Facebook group that was set up around the Arab Spring. https://caryghart.wordpress.com/2018/10/03/the-social-media-conundrum/

It is similar to the story about how to boil a frog. I won’t go into the details, but when things change subtly and slowly you are less likely to notice those changes this can lead to people ending up in quite radical groups and not realizing it until someone points it out from the outside. It is the same thing as the gang mentality that I was recently reading about that caused the murder of two men in Mexico. I think it is work to make sure that we curate our content but I also think that we can’t complain about being curated to if we aren’t willing to do the work to challenge the algorithms ideas about who we are and what we need to see.    

Image From:

https://blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-algorithms-show-notes

The Digital Divide

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The Digital Device as defined by the dictionary sounds pretty straightforward. What is missing is as always is the context and what that actually means. What does not having access really mean? What effect does the digital divide really have? This was the conversation that we had last week during our class on Digital Culture.

There were many topics that came up during the discussion, one of which was the idea of access because of availability. This reminded me of when I lived in the UK and the work that was being done to bring high-speed internet to rural areas. I can totally understand the business side of this conundrum. You have to dig trenches or hang expensive cables long distances for very few people. The reality is that this is never going to be an area that makes these companies money. They are never going to gain back the money that they spent on running these cables and lines.

This is the point where you argue is this a public service that should be offered to those communities just like water and electricity or is it something else? I think that even 5 years ago you could have made a good argument that it wasn’t a “basic service”. But I also think that more and more as the time passes this is a basic service.  As was stated in this article about broadband for Farmers “It is no longer a luxury; it is an absolute necessity in our digital age.” I also think that this is where companies have to figure out more cost-effective ways to provide the service.  Maybe running fiber cable is not effective, maybe instead they should focus on running dedicated 4 or 5G zones in these areas. One tower can provide both cellular data for cell phones and 4/5G service for the homes. I do think if they consider this they should have separate dedicated towers or whatever it may be called. Otherwise, there will be too much conflict for the available space.

One of the other ways that people are bridging the divide is through libraries. This works great for areas that are close to a library. I am from Mississippi though and I can tell you that we have rural areas that are probably 50 miles or more from a library. So a library as a replacement isn’t really a viable option.

One thing we didn’t really talk so much about is the requirement for a device that actually accesses the internet. It isn’t enough to have the internet in your area you have to be able to access it. Many people assume that everyone has at least a smartphone now but there are many people who do not, nor can they afford one. But a smartphone is probably the cheapest way to get people on the internet. I saw when I was traveling in Namibia many of the people in the village that we visited that was probably a good 2 hours from any town with a library, many of the residents had an internet capable phone. They were only able to complete very basic tasks but it was enough that they understood how to make connections using the internet.

I also recently saw this video from Nas Daily, who showed how digital access can be accomplished even in poor countries with even poorer infrastructure. Zimbabwe has managed to figure out a way to exchange currency even when there isn’t any actual currency to exchange all through cell phones.

 

One thing that we didn’t discuss and I realized only when doing research and finding this article on Rural Communities was that without high-speed internet the rural communities do not have access to many online jobs that urban residents may use to supplement their income. This was one element of the digital divide that I had not even considered. Many “side hustles” are based on online access. Working from home even often requires consistent internet if not high-speed internet. So not only are rural residents struggling to get online they may be at a financial disadvantage more so that their urban peers simply due to lack of opportunity for the types of work they can accomplish.

 

Resources:

Digital Divide. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/digital divide

Duvall, Z. (2018, November 01). For farmers, broadband is a necessity, not a luxury. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/technology/414370-for-farmers-broadband-is-a-necessity-not-a-luxury

Rural communities see big returns with broadband access, but roadblocks persist. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/rural-communities-see-big-returns-broadband-access-roadblocks-persist-n881731