Plug Us In!
Learning with Technology at Turning Point Learning Center
Dear TPLC Families:
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing parents and teachers is preparing students for a future that is rapidly changing and poorly defined. New content and information is constantly being created, new partnerships developed across global boundaries are becoming commonplace, and new tools are connecting workers that once would have remained isolated.
To put it simply, the work world that your children will inherit will be dramatically different than the work world of today!
To properly prepare our students for that reality, we’re planning to incorporate new digital tools into learning experiences here at Turning Point Learning Center this year. Specifically, your child may have opportunities to use:
1. Tools for Content Creation: As defined in the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students, 21st Century students must be able to "design, develop, publish and present" a range of web based products and to use technology resources to "demonstrate curriculum concepts to audiences inside and outside the classroom." Today’s students must recognize that in a world where new information is generated at a blinding pace, the ability to develop novel ideas after a careful process of synthesis and evaluation—and to edit and publish those ideas to wide audiences—is far more important than simply consuming knowledge generated by others.
2. Tools for Communication: The students of the 21st Century must be able to engage in both collaborative and competitive dialogue. They must be able to understand different roles in complex networks of learners, respect multiple viewpoints, recognize the important role that listening plays in productive conversations, and articulate a range of positions clearly. 21st Century students must see communication as an opportunity to refine and revise their own thinking.
3. Tools for Collaboration: Because companies are becoming increasingly global—creating work teams of colleagues on different continents—it is imperative for students to begin collaborating with peers across classrooms, schools, communities and oceans. They must be equal partners in the creation of shared documents and presentations—and have ample opportunities to create shared final products. Ongoing experiences with collaborative exercises will help students learn the task management skills that are often prerequisites for successful participation in a world driven by joint endeavors.
4. Tools for Information Management: Perhaps the greatest challenge facing students in the 21st Century is sifting through the amazing amount of content being created and selecting what is truly useful. Where students of an earlier generation had access to a handful of sources while exploring new ideas, today’s students have access to tens of thousands of sources. Students must learn to balance primary sources (interviews, blogs, surveys, personal data collection, etc.) with secondary sources (magazines, newspapers, websites, books, etc.) when collecting and organizing information.
Specifically, our students may be engaged in:
1. Reading and commenting on blogs being created by other students: One of the best ways to motivate students to read is to provide them with opportunities to share their thinking with other students. Collections of classroom blogs make that possible.
2. Creating a classroom wiki: A wiki is an editable website that allows many writers to create content together. In education, students use wikis to complete some classroom projects. At TPLC, our wikis are only editable by students in our building. Generally, our wikis are closed to outsiders—however, there are times when wikis are opened to the world. Here is a sample of a public wiki created by TPLC students: http://tplc10kproject.wikispaces.com/
3. Joining in digital conversations with other students in our school and with partner schools: Middle grades students are social by nature, completely driven by opportunities to interact in ongoing conversations with one another. At TPLC, we plan to tap into this motivation by creating digital conversations connected to classroom content.
These conversations are always closely monitored by classroom teachers and ALL comments are viewed by teachers before they can be seen by students. What’s more, participation in our conversations is limited to TPLC students or students in sister schools we create partnerships with.
4. Writing entries for our blogs: Student writers are generally motivated by having an audience and receiving feedback from their peers. At TPLC, those goals are often accomplished by creating classroom blogs. Blogs are public websites where content can be posted and comments left by readers from around the world.
To ensure that inappropriate content is not added to classroom blogs, all new entries and comments are reviewed by teachers before they are seen by students. What’s more, students use pseudonyms while writing and are taught to never reveal their identity or their location.
Addressing Internet Safety
Students of the 21st Century are exposed to dangers different from those faced by earlier generations. With nothing more than a few simple mouse clicks, children can stumble upon inappropriate content or participate in potentially unsafe interactions with other users.
Students in the 21st Century must be skilled at self-advocacy and protection. They must learn to guard themselves and their identities while creating, communicating and collaborating in virtual environments. They must recognize—and have an action plan for removing themselves from—dangerous situations. They must also understand and respect the line between one’s public and private life.
Age appropriate guidance, monitoring, and guidelines assist students as they learn to take responsibility for their own behavior when using online resources. Providing controlled educational environments focused on learning helps students to utilize 21st century tools responsibly while giving educators and parents the required need for safety and security. TPLC staff and students regularly conduct workshops to promote quality digital citizenship for our community.
To help prepare our students to be responsible digital citizens, we will consistently emphasize and enforce the following rules for Internet safety in our classrooms and community:
1. Students participating in any digital project are expected to act safely by keeping personal information private: They are expected to never share their family names, passwords, usernames, email addresses, home addresses, school names, city names, or other information that could make identification possible.
2. Students participating in any digital project will let teachers or parents know anytime that a digital interaction makes them feel uncomfortable: They are expected to help police their classroom projects, pointing out undiscovered inappropriate comments or interactions to parents or teachers.
3. Students participating in any digital project are expected to treat them as classroom spaces: They understand that speech inappropriate for class is not appropriate for our digital projects. If inappropriate language is posted in digital projects, students understand that they face potential loss of computer privileges. Students also understand that repeated instances of inappropriate language or content will result in permanent loss of privileges.
4. Teachers understand that ALL content created by their students must be monitored: A primary responsibility of all teachers interested in using digital tools in the classroom is ensuring student safety. The first step to making digital learning experiences safe is monitoring all content posted in digital projects. Teachers also accept responsibility for reviewing content created by students on an ongoing basis and close projects that are no longer active.
5. Teachers take active steps to review Internet safety rules with students frequently throughout the course of the school year: Teachers understand that middle grades students need consistent reminders and reinforcement about safe and smart online behaviors. As a result, they regularly introduce short mini-lessons on digital safety in their classrooms. One website used is Netsmartz, the website on Internet safety created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: http://www.netsmartz.org/
6. Parents recognize that they have an obligation to monitor digital activities and behaviors beyond the school day: The greatest risks to students engaged in digital projects come from unsupervised participation in online activities. While the faculty and staff will carefully monitor student involvement in classroom projects, parents understand that we cannot effectively monitor student activities beyond the school day or beyond the scope of school-sponsored activities.
Therefore, parents accept responsibility for monitoring the online lives of their children away from Turning Point Learning Center. One of the first steps that proactive parents often take is ensuring that the family computer is in a public location, making monitoring easy!
Unlike many other online tools, Facebook is not a tool we expect students to use for educational purposes. Additionally, users are required by COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) to be 13 years or older. For those reasons, we do not encourage the use of Facebook for students under 13 years old.
7. Parents accept responsibility for learning more about Internet safety: There are an amazing collection of resources available online that can be used by parents to learn more about keeping their children digitally safe. A growing collection of these resources can be explored by visiting: http://digicitizen.wikispaces.com/
Before your child may fully participate in our technology experiments, we ask for you and your child to agree to the rules for Internet safety listed above and to acknowledge your consent by signing and returning the form below:
I have read and understood the rules for keeping students safe while working on digital projects. I agree to abide by each of the rules, doing my part to make digital learning experiences both fun AND safe at Turning Point Learning Center.
Student Name (please print): _________________________________________________
Student Signature: __________________________________________ Date: _________
Parent’s Signature: __________________________________________ Date: _________