Monday, January 27, 2014

Let's Celebrate Digital Learning Day 2014

Let's Celebrate Digital Learning Day 2014
by Susan Stephenson,

I last celebrated Digital Learning Day in 2013. (Although I’m an Australian, I applaud this US special day and hope you’ll celebrate it with me!) The next official Digital Learning Day is February 5, 2014.

When we think of digital learning, I think it’s important to remember that technology isn’t really new. Humans have been implementing all sorts of strategies to make their lives easier since cavemen hurled rocks at a beehive to procure honey. My own definition of digital learning is learning that’s enhanced by tools mankind has invented more recently, tools like the World Wide Web, tablets and apps. And what a range of experiences this digital learning encompasses! Pre-schoolers nowadays might be learning to match shapes and colours via an iPhone app while Mum is busy putting groceries in the car. Older children regularly use computers, software and apps in their learning. High schoolers might be sending a text on their smart phone while they listen to music via bluetooth, at the same time as they use an iPad app to create a presentation for fellow students. Somehow they’re learning too!

I love to integrate digital learning into more traditional learning, so here are a few resources I found to help us celebrate:

Safety and Digital Citizenship

One of the most important things about learning digitally is safety. Kids need to think about their online behaviour, and decide on best ways to conduct themselves to show respect for others and keep themselves safe.

Here's an excellent video from Common Sense Media, Pause and Think Online. It has a really catchy song and lots for kids to think about and discuss.

This video from Henry Sibley, Managing Your Digital Footprint, explains the ramifications of social media and teen's lives very well.

Here’s a great poster on website evaluation from NorthCoastTAFE and a lesson where Grade 3 and 4 students created their own internet safety posters.

Here are some free pdf posters that encourage kids to think about digital citizenship issues and
Digital Citizenship Week via Common Sense Media.

Having Fun with Digital Learning

So many of the web-based and mobile apps encourage children to think creatively, to learn new skills and information and to express themselves. I love finding and sharing such resources, so why not follow me on Twitter, via The Book Chook’s page on Facebook or via other social media? If you’re new to using digital tools for learning, try some of these ideas with your kids:

Create Comics: Making comics online is so much fun, and sneaks a little writing into that fun. On my other website, I have a free PDF that shares some of my favourite comic editors, or check out my review of iPad app, Comics Head.

Create Word Clouds: Making word clouds is a great way to have kids focus on text, or produce an image consisting of text. Check out Wordle, ABCya Word Cloud and Tagxedo. Not convinced word clouds are useful for learning? Read my article, What's the Use of Word Clouds?

Create Videos: Kids can learn about new books to read via sites like Youtube, and of course find tutorials and documentaries to inform their learning. Creating a video is also a great learning experience for kids. It’s a wonderful way to express themselves, as well as to demonstrate learning.

Create Stories: I wrote about three of the many websites that facilitate story creation in Book Chook Favourites - Book Creation. For example, at Storybird, kids can use the work of wonderful illustrators as prompts for a story, then go on and create their own digital book online. I also used Storybird in my Creative Prompt - Start with Illustrations. As an example, I’ve embedded one of my story birds, The Pobblepong Hero, below:

Another great website is Kerpoof, which encourages children to create posters, stories, even movies.

Create and Discuss Images: There are lots of iPad apps that encourage children to create images. The beauty of these is the opportunities for incidental learning they offer. By talking with our kids when they use an iPad, rather than using it simply as a baby-sitting device, we’re helping them learn. Apps like Make a Scene - Farmyard, EyePaint MyDIARY, and Avokiddo Emotions are all excellent for this purpose. I’ve discussed the possibilities of using images via websites in Visual Literacy - Investigate and Play with Images and Fun and Easy Ways to Make Digital Art with Kids.

Play with Words: Encouraging kids to enjoy and appreciate words is one of the very best things we can do for them as parents and teachers. Take a look at apps like Shake-a-Phrase and SparkleFish or check out Book Chook Favourites - Word Play.

You’ll find many more suggested tools for everyone’s learning at the Digital Learning Day website.
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