Tonight, after listening to George and Alec Couros give their presentation at the Reform Symposium I have crystallized a new introductory lesson for my classes this fall. One very different from my previous, pretty dry, opening (i.e. these are the rules, please follow them, etc. etc.). My first lesson for the students will involve several elements that I hope that they can learn from, and also let me begin my classes in a whole new way.
This year the student’s first lesson will be a question. I will ask them: ‘Who am I?’ In this case the I means me, and they will have a picture (or two) and my name to work off. They need to do their best to create an outline of who I am, my likes, my dislikes, my background, really anything that makes up who a person is. My guess is that the students will be somewhat dumbfounded by this, but for this they will get no help from me. I am interested to see what students come up with as far as answers to the question. Surely there will be wild guesses, but when they start thinking a little deeper than can deduce clues from my picture(s), my name, my profession, approximate age, etc.
The point of all this? Well I teach history, and in history we are often not looking at much more evidence when we try and describe the events and the people of history. How accurate is this? Is it all reliable? What clues do we look for?
Then there needs to be a discussion of what other ways they could use to find out information. Then, and this is where Alec (in conjunction with David Truss who wrote about Digital Footprints) inspired me, I ask the students to go to computers (or their personal devices, whatever) and find out all they can about me. Do a Google search and see what they can come up with. This is based on the idea that we really have very little privacy anymore, and if the students search my name they are going to find all kinds of hits. So then they should be able to fill in a lot more information about who their new teacher is. This is part of the transparency that George and Alec talked about. Since I can’t hide, I might as well put it all out there.
They will likely find a bunch of social media information. Information that (with only a couple minor exceptions) I have put up, including this blog! They should be able to fill out a lot more information about my background.
So here is the third part of this. A discussion of my digital footprint on the web. What are the students seeing, are they seeing what I want them to see? If so how does that change their image of who I am? Have they only looked at the first three or four Google hits and then just used that information? What would happen if they moved onto the second search page and found my ‘Ratemyteacher’ profile.
Lastly I would have them write down at least one question that they still had? Something that they felt was unanswered, as well as a hypothetical answer.
Hopefully at the end of this we will have been able to look at several elements, some of which apply to history, others which apply to their real-life:
- Think carefully about the sources that you use.
- Consider what questions your information generates.
- Think about your digital footprint.
- Do you trust what you are reading on the Internet? Why? Why not?
I am really looking forward to this. I thank Alec, George and David for the inspiration.