Each year, I give a survey to my sixth graders about their use of technology and social media as one entry point into a unit we call Digital Life. I also share the compiled results back with families, too, so they have a sense of trends with technology.
Here are the results of this year’s survey:
A few observations:
The amount of time that kids spend on technology is certainly continuing to grow over time, moving pretty solidly into the two/three/more hours a day. This echoes the results of a lot of official surveys of this age group.
More and more of my students have Smart Phone, meaning parents are spending a lot of money not just for the phones, but also for the services.
Facebook has seen another sharp decline among my sixth graders while Instagram grows at a steady rate for this age group.
Snapchat continues to be popular and growing.
Fewer students say they have had negative experiences in online spaces than in years past, and this reflects a trend in my surveys. Good news there.
More and more students indicate that parents and teachers have had explicit discussions with them about using technology. Another piece of good news.
This is a small sample, of a narrow population group, but for me, I find it valuable as a way to talk about their footprints in the digital world, and what it all means — both in positive terms (connections, sharing, creating) and negative terms (harassment, bullying, privacy). It’s all about the balance.
(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)
We’re in the midst of our unit on Digital Life, and we were talking about online identity and the many ways people represent/misrepresent themselves in online spaces for all sorts of reasons: privacy, acceptance, gender, etc.
Before launching into an online activity around building avatars with different sites (and considering using what they made for their school Google Accounts), I had my sixth graders create Sticky Note Avatars and put them on the window as a sort of public display of representations.
One of my participatory ideas from my presentation last week on “Emergence: Expecting the Unexpected” for the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing was to invite those in the presentation to write an acrostic poem with me. Over the course of a few days, I invited others, too, and the result is pretty nifty. I used an open source writing space called Board.Net (built off elements of the old Etherpad), and used the timelapse element to capture the poem being written.
My friend across many social spaces, Daniel Bassill of Tutor/Mentor Connections, put out a request recently, asking if anyone might be interested in making a comic version of any of his many resources at his site, which encourages partnerships to improve the lives of urban youths.
I’ve done many versions of this prompt – Why I Write — over the years of the National Day on Writing (which is today! Why do YOU write?). I decided to think about memory and remembering, and used the Lumen5 tool to make a short digital poem.
One of the activities I like to do with my students during our Digital Life unit is to have them explore and think deep on the notions of passwords for their many apps and accounts with technology. We use a site that tests the strength of passwords, and I have them use password creation strategies to invent password suggestions for their four main teachers.
It then becomes a classroom challenge, where groups of students share the password that they have for me, their ELA teacher; share and agree on a single suggestion from the group; and then we pit each one against each other to see how strong it is. Each of these images is a slide from each of my four classroom’s challenge. One rule is that I would have to be able to memorize the password, and that is must contain different elements of password strategies (mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols).
Most of these contain clues and elements of what they know about me — from my teaching to my family life to my interests. During the activity, I was actively interviewed about favorite foods, favorite numbers, music I like to listen to, etc.
They like the game element of it, but as I remind them, what this lesson is all really about is reflecting on the kinds of passwords they use in their lives and how to make them stronger.
I know I have hit a nerve when students start asking, “Can you show me how to change my Google password?”
My latest column over at Middleweb is an interview with Jennifer Casa-Todd, whose new book — Social LEADia — closely examines ways in which technology and social media can help empower young people in the larger world on issues that matter to them. The book has many short profiles of young people doing pretty amazing things, and Casa-Todd helps explain how teachers can help foster those shifts.
I was grateful to have about 25 people in my virtual session last night for the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing as I shared some of my experiences with the concept of “emergence” in open networks, and how to make the ground fertile for ideas. Or, a bit more catchy: How to Expect the Unexpected.
An invitation to doodle flowers met folks as they entered the Blackboard room, and it was lovely to see the flowers slowly blooming on the page. I then went into my presentation (a version of it is here, but the full presentation was recorded for eventual archive at the 4T site).
Here are the links that I shared during the presentation:
And I ended with both an invitation to keep an eye out for a Pop Up Make Cycle on the horizon for November on the theme of “maps” as well as a link to collaborate on a poem, using some of the words from the presentation as an acrostic invitation.
The annual National Day on Writing, hosted by NCTE and other organizations like the National Writing Project, is coming again this week. On Friday, Ocober 20, the National Day on Writing — with the theme of Why I Write — will again take to the social media airwaves. Join the mix. Add your voice, your words, your images, your videos. Whatever.