Monday, 24 August 2015

Digital citizenship week

This week at my school we are holding our first digital citizenship week. Some colleagues and myself felt this was necessary given the amount of time our students now spend online. The timing was ideal, since we have just produced an acceptable use policy for technology, which was distributed at a recent Parents' Day. Ideally, of course, digital citizenship would be a routine part of all classes where technology is prevalent or widely used. However, we felt that it was important to raise the profile of this topic, so digital citizenship week was born. 

Throughout the week, a number of teachers have volunteered to turn their subject classes over to lessons around digital citizenship. In this way, each grade level will each receive a lesson about a particular aspect of digital citizenship. For example, I will be delivering a lesson around over-sharing online, based in part on materials from a very helpful organisation, Common Sense Media. Other teachers will be discussing issues around digital footprints.

Although it seems self-evident that we should be educating our students in issues around digital citizenship, there are a few other aspects to consider. Digital citizenship means different things to different people. One definition from is 'the self-monitored habits that sustain and improve the digital communities you enjoy or depend on'. There are also, however, some valid arguments made that digital citizenship is so fundamentally important that we should drop the 'digital' part entirely, and simply include it as part and parcel of citizenship education. Others have suggested that when we talk about digital citizenship, in the main we are referring to digital responsibility, a slightly different set of competencies, and when we talk of digital citizenship we should be encouraging learners to champion debate, justice, and equality via their online interactions. 

However we choose to term it, we have a responsibility to our learners to guide them and help them to negotiate cyberspace safely and responsibly. Although some people may refer to millennials as 'digital natives', can we really assume that they are instinctively equipped to deal with everything the connected world may throw at them? I'm not convinced that we can, and so for now at least I think that we need to continue raising the profile of digital citizenship until it does become part of the everyday classroom conversation. 

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Using citizen science to support global learning connections

Last week's #AsiaEd slow chat on Twitter discussed how we as educators can help our learners become globally connected citizens. As a follow-up I will outline what I think is a great way to do this, which is by encouraging students to get involved in citizen scienceI have written previously about how I have introduced my students to citizen science, which is essentially science carried out by amateur, non-professional scientists. In this post I will outline various citizen science projects and websites which offer opportunities for students to participate in citizen science. I will also explain why I think these kinds of projects are useful for helping learners to become globally connected citizens. 

Dr Lin Chambers from NASA has a videoconference with students who participated in the S'COOL project.


NASA has a number of citizen science projects, for example the CloudSat and S'COOL projects. Students participate in these activities by making careful observations of the sky conditions - cloud cover, cloud types etc - then uploading these data to the respective project web sites. One of the aims of these projects is to reconcile surface observation data with observations made by sensors on satellites, in order to try and improve the accuracy of the sensors. By taking part in these projects students can make connections on a global scale. This includes making connections with the science, for example the global nature of climate science. It also includes making connections with a global community of both citizen scientists (other schools who are engaged with these projects) and professional scientists, for example NASA climate change specialists. Students at my school have participated in videoconferences with NASA scientists and with a school in the US which also participates in the S'COOL project.

A student presents some data for the NASA S'COOL project videoconference.


SciStarter is a very useful website which contains links to a large range of different projects in which volunteers can get involved. Their website has a search function that allows you to select and search for a variety of topics and activities. There are links to many different projects across a range of fields. 


Another great website which has a variety of citizen science projects across a range of disciplines is Zooniverse. Projects include Snapshot Serengeti, where volunteers help to classify animals in photos taken by camera traps, and Asteroid Zoo, where work is conducted to identify near Earth asteroids. 

Journey North

Journey North is a website dedicated to monitoring wildlife migrations and seasonal change. It also has a number of resources for educators, such as activities, slide shows and teacher guides. 

Project Noah

Project Noah is an online tool for documenting biodiversity around the world. Anyone can join, and once signed up members can upload photos of wildlife they have taken, along with details of the organisms they spotted. This information can then be used by ecologists in various ways, for example to track the spread of invasive species, or to determine if climate change is having an impact on the geographic range of a species. 


Citizen science affords students the chance to make global connections between what they are learning in the classroom, and the community of practice of scientists. It also provides them opportunities to become globally connected with other learners around the world. There are many different citizen science projects with which learners can sign up to and get involved. By encouraging our students to engage in these kinds of activities we can provide fantastic opportunities both for learning about real science in an authentic fashion, as well as affording rich experiences for learners in a globally connected environment. 

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Blog Wednesday - A new initiative at my school

A few months ago I came across a great idea, Blog Friday, described by one of my Twitter PLN, Rory Gallagher. Inspired by this, last week I started Blog Wednesday at my school. The basic premise is that every Wednesday I will circulate one of the many interesting educational blog posts from the blogosphere to my colleagues. I will attach a brief commentary, and seek thoughts and opinions from my colleagues

Blog Wednesday at my school

The aim of this initiative will be to circulate blogs that are positive, reflect good classroom / school practice, or more general student / teacher well-being, as well as blogs about broader professional development issues. Sometimes the post may be topical, for example we are having a digital citizenship week soon, so I will circulate a blog post relevant to that topic. Sometimes I may circulate a post that is controversial, while other times it may simply be a post that is of interest to some or all of my colleagues. 

I teach biology in an English-speaking program for Thai students. Therefore the first post I chose for Blog Wednesday was about something all of my colleagues could relate to, bilingual education, by Dr Matthew Lynch. The post outlines five important features that a bilingual education can afford learners, such as improving lifelong learning skills, breaking down international language barriers, and improving collaboration. 

Amongst colleagues who responded to this initiative the feedback was positive. There were a couple of teachers who spoke to me about the idea, and four who replied to my email. Of the four who emailed responses, two colleagues wrote at length about theoretical studies of bilingual education they were aware of, and drew parallels with their own experiences as parents of young bilingual children. 

Why blog as an educator?

There are some great posts here by Amy Hollingsworth and here by Jessica Lifshitz which outline many reasons why blogging can be helpful for educators. Since I began this blog at the end of last year, I have personally found it to be an extremely useful way to reflect on and to develop my own practice as an educator. During that time I have also written various other posts for different blog sites, which is another great way to gain ideas from leading educators. I have collaborated with top UK ed-blogger Rachel Jones for her blog, been invited to post at BAM RadioNetwork EdWords blog by education author Rae Pica, contributed to, and even been quoted in The Guardian!

I plan to continue blogging myself for the foreseeable future. I also aim to continue with the Blog Wednesday initiative for the rest of this semester and the next, through to the end of this school year. After that, maybe more of my colleagues will be blogging too!