Digital Learning Day 2017 is officially in the books. Each year, the Alliance for Excellent Education sponsors DLDay as a celebration of “any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen a student’s learning experience.”
West Catholic and Catholic Central high schools have participated in DLDay for the last two years. We use this day as an opportunity for students to recognize staff for their excellence in the integration of technology to enhance learning. We survey the entire student body a few weeks prior and on DL Day, the students award teachers who meet or exceed their expectations in digital learning. Each school records the day using Storify. For a round-up of activities at each school follow their link. West Catholic | Catholic Central
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Thomas Edison has been credited with once saying, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” (Erica Hendry, Smithsonian.com, 2013) But we rarely hear or teach about those 10,000 times. In schools, we tend to focus on the final outcome of ideas that have shaped the world, and then expect students to go through the process of discovery on their own. They do research, work problems, and perform experiments all with a very clearly expected outcome, but rarely any examples of how to do that work. And typically when they miss the mark, they are penalized in the form of a number or letter that places them on a fairly limited scale of success and failure.
There is great pressure on students to just get the right answer, with no reward for the process of learning. And equally, there is great pressure on teachers to produce students who can get the right answers.
I recently came across the concept of the Biography of an idea in the book LAUNCH. And as I work with our Human Centered Design cohort (aka the innovatED team) it’s come to light that students generally stop being naturally inquisitive around middle school. And by high school, really struggle with inquiry and research. They’ve become so acclimated to the ‘game’ of school, they’re afraid to break the rules.
In a panel discussion the innovatED team had this week with area experts from Steelcase, Spectrum, Kendall and WMCAT, we learned that among soft skills employers are looking for, demonstrated curiosity and acceptance of ambiguity rank pretty high. A popular interview question is “Tell me about the best vacation you ever took.” That story tells prospective employers more about the type of person sitting in front of them than anything else; including, their risk-aversion level, if they are planners or jumpers, and how easily they roll with the punches. Each panel member also talked about marathon sessions of brainstorming and idea generation the regularly happen in their work. The ability to perform those tasks with humility, work as a team, and be genuinely collaborative were also touted. They fully supported teaching the design thinking process and were excited to hear that we’re moving in that direction here at the Diocese. Indeed, they lauded us as leaders of the pack in this area and are excited to continue working with us.
So, how might we create a culture in our classrooms where the process is as important as the outcome; a culture that supports risk-taking and discovery on the road to the right answer?
While there are many possibilities, the following three apps are tools that have been used in our classrooms and are accessible across platforms; including iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, and a variety of mobile devices. Each tool plays a unique role in recording every step of a great or, in the spirit of Mr. Edison, maybe not so great idea.
Start with Padlet. (YT video Overview) Padlet has many potential uses, but at the simplest level, it’s a place to generate ideas. It’s essentially an electronic version of sticky note brainstorming. Students post their ideas on a padlet wall and can then manipulate them to sort ideas into clusters. This can be done as a group on a shared wall, or individually. It would be a great tool just for getting unstuck in an assignment. A student could just throw out the options they think might work, and then work them through without forgetting what else they thought might work. I think I’ll start using it to collect my blog ideas!
Once ideas have been sorted and students choose a couple to work out, move to Mindmeister. (YT Channel) A powerful mapping tool, Mindmeister works to really organize and add detail to ideas. Students can add the type and order of tasks to get them started inquiring and researching their proposed process. They can record notes, questions, and observations as they move through the ideation process.
Once organized in Mindmeister, students move on to heavier lifting including observation, research and creating a draft. This may or may not be electronic as students sketch, draw, model, experiment, write, or attempt steps in a problem. During this work phase, students test their ideas and come to a conclusion that works, or doesn’t.
Remember if their answer isn’t ‘right’ (aka doesn’t work) that doesn’t mean they failed. The ultimate goal is always that they have learned. So success is in the learning, not in getting the right answer. But of course, you (and they) need to be able to evaluate their work and what they did learn.
Enter Explain Everything (YT Channel) This tool supports the evaluation phase. With Explain Everything students can record what they did, include screenshots from Padlet and Mindmeister, talk through the draft phase and explain why it did or didn’t work, what they might have done differently where they went wrong. If they are unable to articulate that, you know they haven’t mastered the topic.
I encourage you to take a look at these three tools. If you’re a student, investigate how they might support you in completing class work. If you’re a teacher consider how you might teach students to utilize these tools in their processing. Even if you aren’t doing a full-blown project, these tools can be incredibly useful for many daily classroom activities as students work to make sense of their world. And who knows, you may be helping invent the lightbulb of tomorrow!
Want to learn more about Edison’s path of learning? Check out this Forbes article on “How Failure Taught Edison to Repeatedly Innovate.”
reading time 3.5 minutes
As we close out our Catholic Schools Week celebrations, I thought it would be fun to reflect on the relationship of technology to Catholic church over time. So, hop into the way-back machine with me and set the controls for c. 560 AD. Welcome to Seville, Spain where we encounter Isidore of Seville. Later canonized (by JPII) St Isidore, produced a 20 volume body of work known as the Etymologies, or Origins. The print version of the Internet for the Middle Ages, the Etymologies was translated and widely published for over 1000 years and was considered to be the resource for all knowledge great and small of the time. The next time you take a foray into the wide world of Google, pause a moment to pray for the intercession of St Isidore, the patron saint of the Internet, in your digital quest for knowledge.
Next stop, the mid 20th c. Enter Fr Roberto Busa, S.J. Fr Busa is credited (among other intellectual accomplishments) as being the catalyst for creating hyperlinks and searchable online text. Engaged in work to build a reference catalog of all of Thomas of Aquinas’ written works, he met with Thomas J Watson (founder of IBM) in 1949 and gave him this design challenge: Create a computerized way to search text by word. His innovative request was the genesis of the ‘hypertext’ function invented by Ted Nelson in 1965. (National Catholic Register, 2017) Fr Busa died in 2011, but you can interact with his tech legacy to this day on a multilingual public Facebook group. His innovations also led to the development of Digital Humanities in higher education; a field gaining in popularity and importance with the continuing evolution of data analysis. There’s even a Busa Prize awarded to leaders in the field of humanities computing.
A few year later, the Vatican saw fit to address the growing sphere of the influence of social media. Vatican 2 documents published in 1963 include a special Decree on the Media of Social Communications aka, the Inter Mirifica. This two-page document answers two driving questions. “The first question has to do with “information,” as it is called, or the search for and reporting of the news.” (Intermirifica 1.5) “The second question deals with the relationship between the rights, as they are called, of art and the norms of morality.”(Intermirifica 1.6) As you skim the Inter Mirifica, it will draw you in with its shockingly relevant guidelines for dealing with news and media today. In fact, it’s difficult to comprehend that it was indeed written in 1963.
Of course, all innovation carries with it some risk. In combining so many classical works, St Isidore preserved a large part of history. But because his work alone was so highly regarded and widely copied, some of those original texts were lost. The Inter Mirifica starts with this caveat, “The Church recognizes that these media, if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind, since they greatly contribute to men’s entertainment and instruction as well as to the spread and support of the Kingdom of God. The Church recognizes, too, that men can employ these media contrary to the plan of the Creator and to their own loss.” (Inter Mirifica I.2)
Jumping now to the 21st century, and the ubiquitous nature of technology, it is truly a gift from God to have voices like Sr Carolyn Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF to provide guidance. Sr. Carolyn maintains a blog and Twitter account under the pseudonym of ‘Cyberpilgrim.’ In late 2016 she published a three-part series on Digital Discipleship.
In Part 1 she calls us to action with this statement: “We are now called to integrate the apostolic opportunityof the digital world, so that we may use it effectively in our everyday efforts to incarnate the Gospel message.” She goes on to connect the concept of intentional discipleship with evangelization and how the Internet can be used to serve that purpose.
In Part 2 she describes why and how to use Facebook effectively. She suggests a balance of posts between ‘other’ (work, fun, family, etc.) and faith. (i.e. 70/30, 60/40, 50/50) Your faith ministry can be as simple as a photo from a parish activity or a re-post from a Catholic site such as bustedhalo which I discovered while researching this post. Their #dailyjolt is a welcome addition to my Twitter feed.
Part 3 of Digital Discipleship advises how to get started with various social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, Linked-In and more. In this section, you’ll also find links to teen-focused accounts on these platforms and suggestions for finding your own faith-based content.
The Office of Catholic Schools’ mission states that we are “an alliance of Catholic schools where Christ illuminates learning and life.” It’s clear that over the history of the church, technology has been a tool used to do just that. I invite you to take up the mantle and continue the tradition of embracing innovation as a means for expanding Catholic educational ministry. Following are a few tips to get started.
Carol Glanville, M.Ed.
Organizational Design Consultant