Today’s Treasure Trove -5A1

I’ve used Flickr before to share photos with friends or with a colleague who needed them for an annual report or slide show. Recently, I had a chance to explore some of their Creative Commons images to use for another project. Today, instead of scurrying through a specific assignment, I took some time to explore some of the offerings in The Commons on Flickr – Wow! I could spend hours looking at the various collections and can think of a ton of ways to use some of them, both professionally and personally.

1. Having just visited Australia and New Zealand in February, I was pleased to see several Australian collections, including those from several places we visited. It will be nice to have a source to “fill in” some of our own photos from there.
2. Some of the roots of my family tree are in the Scottish Highlands. I fell in love with them when I had a chance to visit several years ago. I WILL be going back – perhaps the Scottish photo collections will help me plan my itinerary or even show me some of my homelands.
3. Several years ago, I made a capstone presentation set to music called “I am an Immigrant” for a conference on immigration and new Iowans. It looks at some of the historic issues of immigration as well. I have had many requests to show it again, which was a big surprise. Unfortunately, I used photos from the conference which a) makes it less appealing for a larger audience and b) is difficult to get releases from conference attendees to use their photos in a different way than was originally intended. There are creative commons photos I can substitute and make the program more relevant again.
4. The US National Archives alone could keep me busy for weeks. There is so much we can learn from history, if we just would pay attention! The “Today’s Document” would be a great resource to share with teachers who are trying to help their students understand how to use primary sources..Did you know there’s an app for that (in both iPhone and Android)?  And photos of each document are available to use from Flickr.  I serve as state coordinator for the Representative Democracy in America program and could see that being very useful for some of our teachers.  There are a number of historical photos that would be great to contrast to similar issues we still struggle with today.  For example, there are a number of photos of Japanese Americans in or waiting to be taken to interment camps during the 1940s.  Seeing actual photos of real people helps a paragraph in a history book come alive.  How does that contrast with the way we treat immigrants today?  Especially in light of Arizona’s immigration laws?  It would be a wonderful assignment to have students compare and contrast the eras and the issues.

5.  I do quite a bit of training around child/adolescent development and brain research.  These are areas with huge changes in the last decade, not to mention the last couple of centuries.  I found a number of photos in the US National Archives collection called “History Through the Camera Lens” that include children, some very young, working in difficult labor situations.  One of the first photos I plan to use is the one below, a group of little boys (Newsies) posed on the steps of the US Capital selling their newspapers.  I would use it contrasted with a group of students posed on the Capital steps as part of a local citizenship tour.  The newsies’ photo was taken in 1912, exactly a hundred years ago.  I think this would be a wonderful discussion starter looking at how our attitude toward children in the workplace and our expectations of them in general have changed in the past hundred years.  Having the participants come up with their own contrasting photos illustrating current situations compared to its historical counterpart would be a fascinating assignment.  Students could use Flickr photos or perhaps talk with some of their elderly relatives to get their oral histories or personal photos.  It would be a much more meaningful process than just constructing a T-chart.

Whether I am traveling, researching my own roots, learning about culture (songs, dances, crafts, traditions) or history, I’m most interested in the everyday people, not just the celebrities, kings or generals.  Historic photographs give us a view into that world that nothing else can in quite the same what.  They help us understand the reality of the day.

If you could look at someone’s historic picture book, what would you be interested to see?


Group of newsies selling on capitol steps. Tony, 8 years old, Dan, 9 years old, Joseph, 10 years old, John, 11 years old. Washington, D.C., 04/11/1912

Image from National Archives “History Through the Camera Lens” series of National Child Labor Committee Photographs taken by Lewis Hine, compiled ca 1912 documenting the period 1908-1912.  Taken from

Fordy one – 4D1

This week I’ve done my first real work on a group wiki.  While I have learned quite a bit, there have been some frustrations as well, most specifically T.I.M.E.

Is there a particular example of a classroom wiki which inspired you?

One that I found was called Bungaree History and is an example of an Australian elementary class and the community working together to develop an online history of their township.  It includes memoirs of local citizens from their childhood days, illustrated by the students.  Helping link schools and communities has been a major effort in my career, whether through current events, service learning, shared facilities, future planning, entrepreneurship or history.  This site has some great and very practical examples of how the school and local community are working collaboratively on a project that benefits both.
What was most challenging about creating a wiki together as a group in Activity 4-C-1?

There were a number of challenges this week.  One was knowing where to start, partly because I had never done a wiki before and partly because (it seemed to me) the instructions and expectations for the assignment were scattered throughout the forums, assignment checklist and module descriptions.  No single source had all the information we needed.  The second challenge was time.  On one hand, being able to each work on our own part of the wiki when it worked for us was a very good thing, given everyone’s schedule this week.  On the other hand, the time I had to devote to class the first part of the week was taken up trying to complete the first assignments and figure out the wiki group assignment.  The small group wiki assignment has taken SO much time!  The topic was so broad and vague.  Trying to figure out what to include, how to best refer to sources, how to make it look appealing, how to organize the info was all very overwhelming.  Im sure that part of it is my inexperience.  It isn’t a research paper, it isn’t an opinion blog.  I know what it isn’t, but I didn’t really know what it was supposed to be.
What did you learn from the group wiki project?

One of the most important lessons I learned is that if I’m going to have a group work on a wiki, they need to have a very clear idea of what is expected of them and have it broken down into more detailed steps.  If the key categories are not predetermined, then I will require a planning discussion before the wiki actually begins.  Covey says to “begin with the end in mind”.  I didn’t have a clue what “the end” was really expected to be.  Still don’t.  Perhaps that was part of the point.  I’m a firm believer that too many rules put artificial limits on a student’s creativity.  However, sometimes it is actually easier to be creative when I can be more focused instead of spending so much effort trying to narrow my field of vision to something manageable.

I’ve also been exposed to some great new resources.  Each of us has a little different lens that we used to look at the topic.  Sometimes that took a bit more time to figure out, but nearly always results in new resources, new insights, new appreciation for someone else’s experiences and expertise.
Has your opinion of Wikipedia changed at all this week?

A young friend of mine in the Czech Republic uses Wikipedia much like I use Google – anytime he wants to find out about something Wikipedia is the first place he turns.  That was really my first exposure to it, back in 2008.  I still don’t use it like he does, but find the links to other sources of info very helpful.  Sometimes, depending on the specific question, it is more efficient to go to Wikipedia rather than sift through lots of less relevant links in a Google search.  I am learning to use it more effectively.
Are you encountering resistance to using wikis in your class, either from others or from yourself? If so, how do you plan to respond?

Delicious Service Learning

One of my favorite professional groups of people is a statewide network of folks interested in service learning.  In the past few years, the group has undergone some major leadership changes, growth pains and reorganization.  It includes K-12 teachers and administrators, area and state education staff, college and university representatives, non-profit and community organization leadership.  This is not a group whose members just run into each other at the water cooler or staff meetings.  After our last quarterly meeting, there was a whole flurry of emails to the effect of “Here is the resource I mentioned at our last meeting.”  While the resources are great, they are hiding in lots of places in everyone’s email in-boxes.  Enter the wonders of social bookmarking!  My plan is to use to tag the resources that were emailed and invite other group members to join and use the same tag.  I will also ask them to use the notes box to include ideas or examples of how they might use that particular resource.  It should be a great way to keep a consistent list of resources and share updates between meetings.  Best of all, it will be up to the individual when and how often or intensively they want to use the social bookmarking.

What is the most effective use you have found for social bookmarking sites?

Time to Explore!

Enough talk about the power of RSS feeds, it’s time to explore some!  When you connect to this Netvibe’s link, you will find a whole pageful of RSS feeds, all centered around civic education and citizenship.  Some have teaching resources, including Library of Congress documents.  Others have the latest research.  Still others have news or posts on other blogs.  Most refer to the United States, but a few are international, especially in the news feeds.  Enjoy your exploration and let me know what you find that is useful or interesting.

Resource Sharing Service

I.Love.Resources.  I love finding them, I love having them, I love playing with them, I love sharing them.  I love taking pieces from several and making a new one. That’s part pf the reason my company is named “Resourceful Futures”   Imagine how overwhelming my life became when The Internet came into it.  Remember Gopher?  I barely remember exactly how to work it, but I do remember how excited I was to be able to find text files that someone else had made available and ftp them to my own computer.  Wow!  The world was suddenly a smaller place!  It was like having a wormhole, or in this case a gopherhole, into someone else’s store of resources.  That was before the World Wide Web.  Or blogs.  Or Youtube.  Now there are even more resources.  And they’re prettier.  And noisier.  And I hear they’re working on making them smell nice.

So how is a resource hunter to live in such a world in peace and harmony?  Thankfully, there is an answer – RSS, the Resource Sharing Service.  Most sources call it Really Simple Syndication, but for me it is a Resource Sharing Service.  How else could I find the latest research on civic engagement?  Or who is doing what in service learning?  Or how a little girl in Scotland is building kitchens in Africa?

You see, a big part of my work is teaching teachers.  And most of the time, teachers are very busy teaching.  Some of them spend nights, weekends and their children’s birthday parties looking for resources, but lots of them want to have their own life for a few hours a week and depend on people like me to help  A) find relevant resources and B) put them in a format that is closer to classroom-ready.

I try to be really picky about it all.  I believe in research-based solutions, in data-driven decision-making, in asset-based sustainable development and the power of  ideas. I value locally controlled systems, participant involvement and authentic youth leadership.  Don’t always find all that in my hometown newspaper.  Sometimes, it takes part of an idea from New Zealand, combined with research in Canada, shaped by a lesson learned from a blog in Denmark (maybe even Denmark, Iowa)  to come up with a good way to help my local teenagers make a difference in their world.  Other times, it just takes sitting down with them and listening to the coolest idea they saw on Youtube that reminded them of lyrics to a song a friend posted on Facebook that inspired them to Reachout to Save Someone (RSS).

In the end, technology is a wonderful tool, but it takes a human touch to make it meaningful.  I’m thankful to live in a world where I can have both. And use RSS to find and share the resources I need when they are needed.

Guardians of Democracy in a Digital World

Independence Day  is a good time to explore civic education.  Our students get less of it in school even though most schools say something in their mission statement or goals about producing some variation of “informed, engaged citizens.”.  If you define civic education as helping students learn to be good citizens instead of learning about civics, we must also help them develop skills and “dispositions” in addition to knowledge, what the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools calls civic competencies.

The 2011  “Guardian of Democracy: the Civic Mission of Schools” describes the sad state of civic education and research on these six proven practices to teach students  to be effective/engaged citizens.  1. Classroom Instruction, 2. Discussion of Current Events and Controversial Issues 3. Service-Learning  4. Extracurricular Activities 5. School Governance 6. Simulations of Democratic Processes.

Good stuff  but a year old.  What could I find that is research-based and newer?  How about a February 2012 Progress of Education Reform report from the Education Commission of States entitled “Civic Engagement through Digital Citizenship”.  It looks at research about how “Digital Natives” engage in civic action.  They report that those of us born before the digital revolution are more likely to view civic engagement in a dutiful way.  For Digital Natives, “civic actions originate from their “personally expressive politics” and “peer-to-peer relationships that promote engagement.”.  The report calls this “Actualizing Citizenship”,  characterized by more peer to peer training and action as well as self-determined expression and network development. This report emphasizes the issue of mostly “dutiful” teachers trying to reach “actualizing” students primarily using pedagogy that isn’t a good fit.

The report includes references to resources that look like fabulous support for teachers.  I especially liked their policy recommendations, taken directly from page 5 of their report:

“1. Digital natives learn and think about citizenship in fundamentally different ways than previous generations. If schools are to meet their civic mission, education policies and practices need to take digital natives’ conceptions of citizenship into account.

2. Broadband availability, accessibility and affordability are the determining factors separating youth who are digital natives and youth who are not. If policymakers do not address these factors, non-digital native youth, who are largely poor and
largely minority, will continue to be less likely to be civically engaged than their digital native peers.

3. Policymakers should carefully consider how technology usage policies impact civic learning, as well as potential civic engagement, for digital natives. While well-intended, policies that forbid student use of Facebook, Twitter, message boards,
blogs and texting during the school day effectively close off many suitable and worthwhile opportunities for civic learning, participation and activism for digital natives.

4. Young citizens, digital natives included, need educational opportunities to prepare them for participation in digital media. Students do not possess inborn skills for technology and civic participation. These skills must be taught and therefore should be addressed in school standards and curricula.”

So here we are at that place where an interesting summary of research meets the daily grind of the classroom.  Citizenship isn’t just taught in civics class, it is taught across the curriculum.  How do you help your students become informed and engaged citizens?  How might it look different in light of what Digital Natives need to know about how to be a citizen?   Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!!