by Tom March and Oxley College staff
Digital Citizens is a synthesis of several initiatives. First, my main role at Oxley College is to facilitate integration of Curriculum Mapping. Through the use of Atlas Rubicon, we can now easily find overlapping content and themes across curricular areas. Second, and relatedly, I want to support cross-curricular studies. This is difficult given the logistics of course timetables and unit timelines. My thought was that an online space could be used as the common element by teachers in different key learning areas. The teachers would identify the content for their pages, but the students would access the entire site. Third, I wanted to launch students use of rich interactive resources like GapFinder. Finally, I received an application for the Digital Citizenship grants and thought this would provide funding for teacher release time and self-managed learning wristbands.
Intended goals / outcomes
In a way, Digital Citizens is a WebQuest. It centres on the question:
What does it mean to be a good global citizen, especially during challenging times?
The intended goals were
- to engage students in more open-ended thinking
- to invite participation from colleagues in the main learning areas.
Additional background can be found on the About page for the project.
Description of the activity
Students would use the Digital Citizens Web site during double periods booked into a computer lab or a mobile lab of Netbooks. The first class was Geography, so a series of pages was set up after meeting with the head of Humanities. Students main activity would be the analysis of interpretive maps – an extension of their current study of “Global Inequalities” in Year 8 geography.
Use of Online / Web 2 resources & tools
The main Web 2 tools used so far are:
- WordPress & embedded media
- The World Mapper site
- TEDTalks – Rethinking Poverty – TED Talks
- Pageflakes Feeds
Anecdotes from Design / Implementation
Because of my role at the school, I am infrequently involved in the implementation of projects – mostly their design and development. Ironically, I missed the launch of Digital Citizens because I was participating in the New Millennium Learners conference in Brussels. The fact that no comments have been added or posts made by students tells me the activity did not take place during Term 3. Rather than see this as a setback, I prefer to use this as confirmation of the Web-based cross-curriculum approach. The learning does not depend on the time and place of the class. The last periods of the term can be a busy time. The fact that the site is still ready and being prepared for work with English and science teachers means that students will still encounter the learning and geography teachers can turn to Digital Citizens when they find extra time. A specific anecdote I can relay comes from discussions with the head of the Humanities department, who is also the Year 8 Geography set 1 teacher. After submitting a draft of the site via an email link, he responded, “Your best work yet!” I include this not as self-congratulations, but as a concrete example of enthusiasm that is sometimes hard to come by when teachers are prompted to change. The teacher in question has always been a supporter of differentiating instruction so trying new things isn’t a challenge for him, but his enthusiasm will certainly get communicated to his peers who often share the same learning resources.
The current state of Digital Citizens highlights a recurring theme for me. I am better at curriculum design and development than change management. Partly this is because I’m juggling too many balls (but aren’t we all?). After the spring holidays, there will be a period of several weeks when time is more available before all efforts are put toward final exams. I will offer to take or partner during double periods with Year 8 teachers in the core areas to see if they want to sample Digital Citizens – this with an eye toward planting seeds for next year and giving students hands-on experiences. At Oxley College we are engaged in substantive transformation: using Curriculum Mapping to focus on skill development and critical thinking. These towards the goal of making learning more individualised and intrinsically motivating. Fortunately all these initiatives are pieces of a whole and the steps we take – like Digital Citizens – may be small, but in the right direction.