As we think about what’s next for Webmaker, we’re conducting interviews to better understand our audience and develop user personas. What challenges do teachers in the classroom face, for example? How can we help them spread web literacy? Here’s what Phil Macoun, an educator from Nanaimo, B.C., had to tell us.
Phil: a tech-savvy educator trying to help his school
- Phil Macoun is the Technology Coordinator at Aspengrove School in Nanaimo
- He’s thinking about how to implement a complete digital literacy curriculum for the entire school, from grades 1 to 12
- He recently started pursuing a Masters in Educational Leadership. “Because real change is going to happen at a higher level. Technology alone isn’t enough — the technology needs to support the pedagogy.”
What would K to 12 digital literacy look like?
Phil’s been thinking a lot about what “digital literacy” might look like from kindergarten all the way to grade 12. As his school’s Technology Coordinator, he has the opportunity to implement a school-wide curriculum, influencing an entire staff of teachers and several hundred students.
He’s been surveying the landscape. Phil has researched various digital literacy offerings and approaches, including:
- MIT’s Scratch
- Howard Rheingold’s “Net Smart” curriculum
- Common Sense Media
- BC’s Draft Digital Literacy Standards
- Mozilla’s Web Literacy Standards
- Brennan’s Framework for Development of Computational Thinking
- Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay’s Digital Citizenship framework
- TPACK framework
He’s familiar with Webmaker tools like Thimble, and has been following Webmaker’s Web Literacy Map.
“The whole maker movement thing is a big part of what I’m thinking about right now. [Mozilla's] web literacy map outlines things kids need to do, but there also need to be attitudes and approaches tied up into the learning. How to design and be creative.”
The hard part is implementation
The biggest challenge for Phil is: how to help busy, time-strapped teachers get started teaching this stuff in their own classrooms. “In terms of implementation, this is where I get stuck,” Phil says. “[Webmaker] has got good ideas — but I don’t know how to scale them up for my school.”
“I can’t possibly do all this myself — I need other teachers to be responsible for implementing it. I need a framework.”
His best solution so far?
What has worked to help him solve this problem so far? The Common Sense Media “Digital Citizenship” curriculum. By sending his fellow teachers that one link, along with a bit of context and guidance, he was able to offer time-strapped colleagues something close to a turn-key solution. They loved it.
“It lowers the barrier to entry. They can quickly see the grade level, learning outcomes, download a lesson plan, get worksheets. There’s everything they need to get started.”
Phil likes that Common Sense Media also just published an e-book manual for teachers, and says that many other independent schools in BC are now adopting the Common Sense curriculum.
Parents want these skills for their kids
“I mostly get parents coming and saying: thank you for teaching my kids this stuff!” Phil says. “They like that I’m telling their kids how to search the Internet properly. They know that their kids are immersed in this online world, and they’re looking for help to manage it properly.”
From exploring and building to connecting
Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map is based around exploring, building and connecting. Phil says that parents and colleagues intuitively grasp the value of “Exploring” and “Building” — but less so with “Connecting,” the piece he actually thinks is the most valuable.
“Trying to get people to understand that piece is much harder,” he says. “‘Exploring’ is easy — people want kids to be able to search the internet better. The ‘building’ piece is easy as well — kids programming video games, printing stuff on a 3D printer. Parents love that stuff. Its harder to explain the connecting piece.”
“You want to get from ‘Help me to manage my kids online life’ to ‘help me teach my kids to leverage this tool to its full potential.”
How could Webmaker’s curriculum offering improve?
We recently shipped a new series of pages that we think of as a “textbook for web literacy.” I invited Phil to tale a look at the “Privacy” page, from a teacher’s perspective.
“As a busy teacher what I’m looking for is: what’s the stuff that’s relevant to me.
If I was a teacher who didn’t know a lot about this topic, I’m looking for: ‘What am I teaching? What are my learning outcomes? How am I going to do it?'”
“I look at this page and go: I don’t have time to figure this out right now. I had to scroll right down to the very bottom of the page to know that there was stuff here for teachers.”
“If I had a teacher portal, like the Common Sense Media stuff, it could show me what the different elements of the Web Literacy thing might look like in primary school, vs middle school, vs high school, etc. When it’s all kinda jumbled up, I don’t have time to pick out the good stuff.”
Badges as a more fluid way to recognize learning
“I’d love to use badges as a formative assessment tool in my classroom. A more fluid way students could celebrate their learning. Maybe I could find a way to loop badges into what my kids are already doing with Google Docs, or Scratch, or TinkerPad. That would be really cool.”
Google Apps recently became Aspengrove school’s go-to digital platform. They moved the whole school over to it. Every student from grade 8 and up now has a Google Apps email address.
“All our students are doing their writing in Google Docs now.”
In a way, Phil’s school is using Google Docs the same way Mozilla uses etherpads — for immediate web-based collaboration.
“The first thing teachers and students do is open up a Google Doc and start putting all their ideas in one document. In many cases, teachers have been writing alongside the kids, so that students can get comments from the teacher as they go. And teachers are doing most of their classroom presentations in Google Docs as well.”
Some early conclusions and analysis
I found this interview hugely insightful. I’m going to think some more about analysis, early conclusions and next steps. But in the mean time: what do you think? Please share your thoughts as comments on this post.