Responsible Use Agreements that Empower: Course 2 Final Project

Big Idea

The big idea for me in course 2 is the importance of harnessing the power of technology to make positive contributions to our world.

Every time I search for something, every time I post something, every time I comment, I am leaving digital footprints. They can be good prints or bad prints. I can tear down or I can build up. I can consume or I can contribute. I can stay silent or I can speak up. I have a choice.

Unnerved by blinding speed technological advances, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the vast dangers  and complexity of the internet and just want to retreat from it all. This course has given me the opportunity to have a different perspective.

Today, like never before, because of technology and the internet, we have the opportunity to know what is going on in our world and choose to do good for our world. Through social media and blogging we can communicate our ideas to a global audience and to mobilize others to work for the common good of our world.

Responsible Use Agreement Project Reflection

I want my students to use digital tools to:

  • Be active global citizens
  • To create, explore, and grow as learners
  • To respect, educate, and protect themselves and others

But in order for them to be successful, they need a safe place with clear expectations. They need a Responsible Use Agreement (RUA) that will guide them in a positive direction so I chose option 1 as my project.

My thinking for this project was shaped by two people. Scott Mcleod, in his blog post, Instead of an AUP how about an EUP (Empowered Use Policy) helped me to see how powerful our words can be. Are we wanting to restrict our students by saying NO! NO! NO! all the time or should we be empowering them and inspiring them to use their digital tools to their full potential? I decided that I wanted my RUA to be written in positive language instead of negative language. The second person that influenced me was Dr. Mike Ribble. I decided to use, the white paper, Digital Citizenship: a Holistic Primer based on Dr Mike Ribble’s Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship as a framework for writing a sample RUA for our elementary school. He created the idea of REP. Respect. Educate. Protect. Those became my main categories.
For this project I collaborated with Erin and Lisa. Erin and Lisa both worked on an RUA for K-2 students and I worked on one for 3-5 students. First, Erin set up a shared google folder. We then agreed to do some research and talk to others. We also requested sample RUAs from other schools and shared our schools’ current technology agreements in our folder. Here is the current one for my school. I talked with my principal about the idea and she was positive. I also chatted with our tech director, David Elliott about our school’s tech use philosophy. I was pleased to hear him share a similar vision.

Originally, we compiled our ideas in one shared doc and then we each wrote our own sample RUA and provided helpful suggestions and comments for each other.

My colleague, Alexis Snider and former coetailer shared her group’s RUA with me. I liked their idea of providing links and supports for parents on the document after they sign their name.  So I modified and included these links as well.

Here is a Erin’s K-2 RUA. I love how she also created  an infographic using piktochart. I am planning to share her example when we work with our lower elementary team to develop one for younger students.

And here is mine:

It’s been a challenging but profitable course. I am looking forward to Course 3!

Genius Hour Part 2: An Opportunity for Students to Impact their World

Image: Pixabay CC0

In this week’s blog post we are focusing on how we as educators, can empower students to use technology to make a positive impact in their world.

The following TEDx talk by Scott McLeod called Extracurricular Empowerment, reminded me of the big picture of why I am giving my students the gift of time to work on their Genius Hour projects.

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This seems to be a good time to give an update on our Genius Hour project that we began some weeks ago. In my previous blog post Genius Hour: Where our Passions Intersect with the Needs of the World I talked about my aspirations for giving my third graders one hour every Friday to work on projects that relate to their passions that could meet a need in the world. And I am asking myself the question: Am I empowering my students to use technology to make a positive impact in their world?

  • We started with 3-4 weeks of just exploring different areas like making things out of cardboard, creating art, using wires and bulbs to experiment with electric circuits, coding, legos, etc. They began asking questions.
  • We spent a few weeks creating a heart map that included things we love, things we are interested in, things that make us sad, problems we want to solve and questions and wonderings we have.  We used our heart map to brainstorm a list of all the different types of genius projects we could try. I showed the students other brainstorm examples such as this one.
Genius Hour with Mr. Rafferty
Genius Hour with Mr. Rafferty

This step was not easy for my students and now, looking back, I moved us on too quickly from this very important step. The students just wanted to pick one idea and run with it without really thinking about how this idea connects to helping our world. I wish I would have spent more time showing them examples of other students and helping them with this step.

Joy Kirr has been one of my Genius Hour mentors as I embark on this journey.  I recently read a tweet from her that confirms that this stage is not to be rushed.

Had I spent more time on this, I think their final proposals would more reflect them and their heart for the world.

  • Next, students submitted their project proposals. The students made a plan, filled out a simple form and submitted it to me for approval. There were two criteria. Their project would involve learning something new and their project would improve our world.

Here are some of their project ideas:

  1. Write a digital fiction book
  2. Create a natural habitat for snails and frogs
  3. Learn how to use Scratch and create a story
  4. Write a book about different habitats and the animals that live there
  5. Create the ideal city (they want to do this in digital form but are researching which medium to use. Any suggestions?)
  6. Snake Awareness Project (we have a new campus in a rural area and the students want to research natural ways to keep snakes away and inform students of the dangers of snakes)
  7. Build a robot
  8. Learn some magic tricks and share them in book form
  9. Build a city in Minecraft Survival Mode. (7 of 21 students want to do this and I hesitated to approve it…I love Minecraft but I am having a hard time seeing it meet the criteria of “changing the world.” Although I did find this cool  UN project using Minecraft. If anyone has any thoughts on Minecraft and Genius Hour, let me know)
  • Next step for the students is research.

The article, Building Good Search Skills: What Students Need to Know was a great reminder that it’s never too early to start helping students learn research skills.

Here are a few ways I hope to guide my students in the research phase:

The most important step of all is for my students to begin reflecting and documenting their process in their blog. Getting their blogs up and running is the key to giving the students the opportunity to share their ideas with the rest of the world. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.