All posts by John Mikton

John Mikton is currently the Head of Education and Media Technology/ Deputy Principal at the International School of Luxembourg. He is a trainer and course designer at the Principal Training Center – and Teacher Training Center. John is additionally a Learning2 Community Coach and trainer at the Institut de formation de l’Éducation nationale du Luxembourg. He blogs at https://beyonddiigtal.org and co-hosts the https://www.theinternationalschoolspodcast.com/.

Artificial Intelligence for Educators: Essential Podcasts

Understanding and navigating the complex layers of the rapid changes AI introduces can be overwhelming. These accelerated changes, brought on by AI, impact numerous aspects of our lives: from our professional and social spheres to culture, politics, technology, and ethics.

For educators, staying updated and engaged with this topic, amid our many other responsibilities and tasks, is a challenge. However, the influence of AI in education is undeniable and will undoubtedly play a crucial role in our students’ futures. Living alongside AI has become a reality of our time. It’s vital to craft learning experiences that not only offer the skills and knowledge to leverage AI’s potential benefits in the classroom but also address the necessary precautions these technologies demand.

Here’s a list of podcasts focusing on Generative AI, ChatGPT, and Large Language Models. This list serves as a comprehensive set of references on the subject, offering an overview and clarifying technical nuances. Moreover, from various voices and perspectives, it delves into the ethics and dynamics of these emerging technologies. Often, these discussions raise more questions than they provide answers.

Prompting Strategies for Educators Using ChatGPT and LLMs

As more educators and students begin to use Large Language Models (LLMs) such as, ChatGPT, Bard, Claude, and others, one of the key challenges is understanding how to use prompts effectively to refine and build upon responses. 

A prompt refers to a question, statement, query, or task that is entered into the text box of a Large Language Model (LLM) such as ChatGPT, Bard, or Claude. It assists the Large Language Model in understanding the intent of the person who is typing, whether it be a question, statement, or task, and then generating appropriate responses to address the question, statement, or task. Teachers can try various prompts in order to generate specific information or explore different subjects. When working with prompts, it is important to take the time to review the response and seek additional clarification, definition, or specificity through further prompts. The information can be at times incorrect, or inaccurate, hence double-checking is a key step in learning how to prompt. 

Using prompts can help both students and educators access more targeted and accurate information, facilitate deeper learning, and promote critical thinking skills. It is important to understand prompting requires patience and practice. To develop proficiency in prompting, there are several resources and strategies worth exploring shared below. One example of an effective approach is to start by writing thoughtful and targeted prompts that align with specific learning objectives. For example, if the objective is to learn more about a historical event, a prompt could be written to ask about the causes, consequences, and key players involved.

Another strategy is to provide students with examples of well-crafted prompts and encourage them to analyze and evaluate them. By examining successful prompts, students can develop a deeper understanding of what makes a prompt effective and apply these to their own work.

Educators can use technology tools such as chatbots and interactive dialogue models to help students practice and refine their prompting skills in a safe and controlled environment. 

In our respective school settings, it is important to ensure that our curriculums of digital literacy integrate Large Language Models (LLMs). This skill is becoming essential as these AI tools seamlessly integrate into the digital ecosystems we engage with, both in school and in our personal lives. Developing proficiency in prompting is important for educators and students alike, as it represents a new essential skill of digital literacy. Taking the time to learn the strategies, approaches, language, and questioning techniques for effective prompting is very much like the early days when we were learning how to use search engines and terms. Acquiring solid prompting skills not only supports the development of critical thinking but also equips us to navigate the complexities of the information age. Mastering the skill of digital and information literacy to harness the potential of natural language models provides students and educators with the necessary tools to be critical thinkers with all the information and data that surrounds us.

Here are a few resources every educator must have in their toolkit, check it out!

A Teacher’s Prompt Guide to ChatGPT
Short instructional teachers guide to using ChatGPT pdf download

50 ChatGPT Prompts for Teachers:
https://classtechtips.com/2023/03/15/chatgpt-prompts-for-teachers/

Seven Suggestions for Saving Time With ChatGPT by shiftingschools.com
https://www.shiftingschools.com/free-pdfs 

100 Prompts for Teachers to Ask ChatGPT
https://youtu.be/mxC6QA_KYX8?t=2

From @herfteducator A Teacher’s Prompt Guide to ChatGPT https://usergeneratededucation.files.wordpress.com/2023/01/a-teachers-prompt-guide-to-chatgpt-aligned-with-what-works-best.pdf

From Ted Pickett @Mr.Pickett
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viLLY1EyAx0&ab_channel=TedPickett

Dr. Phillipa Hardman from Cambridge University ChatGPT Edu-Mega-Prompts
https://drphilippahardman.substack.com/p/introducing-chatgpt-edu-mega-prompts?utm_source=profile&utm_medium=reader2

How to write an effective GPT-3 prompt  https://zapier.com/blog/gpt-3-prompt/

3 Principles for prompt engineering with ChatGPT
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/3-principles-prompt-engineering-gpt-3-ben-whately/

ChatGPT Guide: Six basic prompt strategies
https://the-decoder.com/chatgpt-guide-five-basic-prompt-strategies-for-better-results/

Advanced ChatGPT Prompt Tutorial 

Strategies for ChatGPT prompting
https://community.openai.com/t/strategies-for-chatgpt-prompting/25311/1 

Terms Definitions: Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing Models

In recent years, there has been a remarkable surge of attention and resources focused on artificial intelligence (AI). This topic has been further amplified by the sudden appearance of ChatGPT and the development of Large Language Models (LLMs) models. While these changes hold immense promise, the constantly evolving terminology, acronyms, nouns, and labels associated with AI can feel challenging to unpack and understand.  

As educators, it is vital for us to have a good grasp of AI definitions and terminology, particularly when it comes to integrating these technologies into the classroom. Not only does this knowledge support our capacity to effectively communicate with our students and colleagues, but it also empowers us to integrate these tools into our lessons and units.

A good understanding of AI terminology supports educators with the tools to navigate ethical considerations associated with AI implementation, such as bias and privacy concerns. By delving deeper into these concepts, educators can support their students in developing critical thinking skills and preparing them to tackle the ethical dilemmas they may encounter as they navigate the digital world.

While the abundance of AI resources available can be overwhelming, it is important for educators to find time to become familiar with AI terminology and concepts. This is an important step for those seeking to integrate AI into their classrooms.

By taking the time to understand AI terminology, educators can navigate the complex landscape of AI with greater confidence and integrate it into their classrooms .

AI terms + education: A glossary of what you need to know
https://www.turnitin.com/blog/ai-terms-education-a-glossary-of-what-you-need-to-know

Glossary of Artificial Intelligence Terms for Educators
https://sites.google.com/ncsu.edu/ai-engage/nexus-conversations/nexus-blog/glossary-of-artificial-intelligence-terms-for-educators

A glossary of AI terms for education
https://nationalcentreforai.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2022/08/31/a-glossary-of-ai-terms-for-education/

Seven top AI acronyms explained
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/feb/28/techscape-black-box-neural-networks-ai-acronyms?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

AI and IA terms explained
https://aibusiness.com/ml/every-rpa-ai-and-ia-term-explained

Machine learning acronyms and abbreviations
https://github.com/AgaMiko/machine-learning-acronyms

The Spaghetti Soup of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Definitions https://servisbot.com/ai-definitions/
ns/

17 AI Terms and Acronyms You Need to Know
https://medium.datadriveninvestor.com/17-ai-terms-and-acronyms-you-need-to-know-1e22e09c8bd5

Lesson Planning With Chat GPT Large Language models (LLMs)

There is understandably a level of apprehension around the sudden arrival of AI and Large Language Models like ChatGPT, Bard, and Claude in the education space. The various narratives often highlight the issues of plagiarism, students using these models to answer exam questions, and conducting research with AI, completing lesson tasks with AI. These situations, at first glance, bring about valid concerns and issues that all educators, at some level, have to engage with or will in the near future. There are definitely many aspects related to large language models (LLMs) that can often generate an alarmist response or raise valid concerns regarding the ethics of using them in an educational setting. These concerns are very important to address and support educators with professional development and open, honest conversations. Ignoring these conversations will only create a greater sense of disconnect between the rapid technological changes in our lives and the role and importance of educators in the learning journey of schools.

For all of us, it boils down to a disposition and mindset where we understand that we are in an age of cohabitation with AI and Large Language Models (LLMs). With this coexistence, there are numerous interesting opportunities to leverage these models in order to support educators, as well as cautions and reflections to discuss and share within schools. Once again, using the lens of “what is the added value of our role in the education landscape in an age of LLMs,” one of the ways to leverage large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, Bard, and Claude is to support teachers in creating differentiated lesson plans and activities.

In this post we look at Lesson Planning. (LLMs) can assist teachers in breaking down the lesson planning process and clarifying learning objectives efficiently. With access to vast data and information, these models provide a comprehensive overview of the subject matter and generate novel ideas. They can support teachers in catering to students’ diverse learning styles and needs by offering personalized activities and differentiated instruction.

To leverage large language models (LLMs) effectively, understanding and utilizing prompts is crucial. Well-designed prompts guide LLMs to align their responses with desired outcomes, ensuring content generation that matches learning objectives. Prompts are a new skill for teachers to explore when working with LLMs, but they streamline the lesson-planning process. Specific prompts save time by eliminating resource searching, enabling the creation of quality, differentiated lesson plans that cater to diverse student needs. This highlights how cohabitation with large language models (LLMs) can be an asset to a teachers workflow.

Articles
Lesson Plan: Teaching and Learning in the Era of ChatGPT
In this article students explore the  design of both ethical guidelines and curriculum projects that use the tool for learning.

With ChatGPT, Teachers Can Plan Lessons, Write Emails, and More. What’s the Catch?
In  the article the author explores some strategies and feedback from teachers leveraging ChatGPT for lesson design and planning.

How To Use ChatGPT for Teaching: 5 Ways Teachers Can Utilize ChatGPT
The author shares five examples of how ChatGPT can support teachers in their daily tasks.

6 Ways to Use ChatGPT to Save Time Teachers can use the artificial intelligence tool to effectively automate some routine tasks.
Edutopia shares a variety of strategies on leveraging LLMs to support and take on routine tasks in an educators day.

Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D. ChatGPT with My Students|
Jackie Gerstein provides a series of approaches and strategies on how to leverage ChatGPT with a variety of activities and lessons strategies.

Leveraging ChatGPT: Practical Ideas for Educators
ASCD shares strategies to explore to have ChtaGPT support teachers with  inquiry-based instruction.

Lesson Planning

Let ChatGPT Be Your Teaching Assistant In this article a variety of strategies explore sing AI to lighten an educators workload.

Using AI to Help Organize Lesson Plans
In this Edutopia article the author explore how AI tools like ChatGPT can help educators find activities that are set up to teach designated skills.

ChatGPT for Teachers – Doing an hour of work in 6 minutes!
Ted Pickett @Mr.Pickett shares some concrete examples of how he leveraged C hatGPT3 to develop a lesson plan with a series of activities, and engagement around an English class he teaches. Partial tips highlighting the power of these tools for lesson planning 

Lessons with ChatGPT: A Step-by-Step Guide
New EdTech Classroom @NewEdTechClassroom shares a detailed step-by-step guide on how to potentially use ChatGPT 3 to develop lessons, this focused more on the strategies that can be leveraged for different lesson subjects and age groups

Using ChatGPT to Create a Lesson Plan
Learning and Technology @LearningandTechnology here demonstrates ways to consider using ChatGPT for the different steps of a lesson plan using the BOPPPS  model which is an acronym for the 6 components of a lesson. The components are Bridge-In, Outcomes, Pre-assessment, Participatory Learning, Post-assessment, and Summary.

AI Deep Fakes Media Literacy

In today’s digital landscape, we are constantly bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information and media through various channels, such as smartphones, laptops, and social media. While this has certainly transformed the way we consume news and information, it has also raised concerns about the authenticity of the content we encounter. The advent of deep fake technology is exacerbating this issue, where manipulated images and videos can be created to appear real and spread rapidly across online news feeds.

As AI continues to advance at an unprecedented rate, the potential misuse of deep fakes to spread misinformation and propaganda poses a growing challenge to democratic processes. Election campaigns and public opinion are often targeted by malicious actors seeking to sway outcomes through the sharing of fake news and manipulated images and videos. This, in turn, erodes public trust in many organizations and institutions and the capacity for communities to find shared consensus on many issues.

To address this, developing the skills and dispositions necessary to identify and discern deep fakes from genuine sources is an essential skill. This includes the ability to evaluate information sources critically, identify any biases, and understand the technical aspects of digital media manipulation. Without these essential skills, students and educators are at risk of not being able to identify deep fakes and other forms of disinformation.

As educators, we have a responsibility to prepare students for the digital world and equip them with skills to navigate the ever-changing media landscape. Media and information literacy skills foster an informed and engaged school community, empowering students to make informed decisions based on accurate and reliable information.

However, the rapid changes in information consumption and media communication tools have created a new and unfamiliar landscape for many educators. The rise of AI and deep fakes has amplified the need for providing professional development opportunities for educators to support effective teaching of media and information literacy.

Schools can ensure educators have the necessary skills by offering professional development, allowing them to equip students with the skills needed to navigate the evolving media landscape and become responsible consumers of media, active participants in civic life.

Strategies to support educators to identify deep fake pictures or videos

(source: https://elearningindustry.com/teaching-children-about-deepfake-technologies https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/detect-fakes/overview/

  • Teach to evaluate the source of the picture or video. Look for reputable sources and consider the context in which the picture or video was taken.
  • Be aware of any alterations in the picture or video. This can include identifying inconsistencies in the lighting, colors, or shadows.
  • Listen carefully to the audio in a video. Deep fake videos may have audio that is not synchronized with the visuals.
  • Look for signs of manipulation. This can include identifying glitches in the video or noticing any unnatural movements of objects or people in the video.
  • Cross-check the information in the picture or video with other sources. This can help verify the authenticity of the picture or video.
  • Become familiar with the technical aspects of digital media manipulation. Understanding the use of facial mapping and other techniques used to create deep fake videos.

Further approaches to explore with students

  1. Teach critical thinking skills by asking questions about the content they consume. Analyzing sources for accuracy, objectivity, and bias is a key part of this process. Guide students to approach information with a critical eye.
  2. Use real-life examples of deep fakes and misinformation, and challenge students to identify them. Recent news articles and examples from social media can be useful in illustrating the concept. This approach helps understand the real-world impact of deep fakes and misinformation.
  3. Create hands-on activities where students create their own content, such as short videos or social media posts. This gives students experience firsthand of the technical aspects of digital media manipulation and the impact it can have on the authenticity of the content. Creating their own content also helps students develop the skills to evaluate information critically.
  4. Collaborate with other teachers to integrate media and information literacy skills across different subjects. Include deep-fakes. Explore the technical aspects of deep fakes, and through critical thinking skills & activities analyze news articles and sources. These cross-disciplinary approaches support students to better understand the complex multifaceted nature of media and information literacy in the age of A.I. cohabitation.

Articles framing the context

What are deep fakes – and how can you spot them? 
Deep Fakes Explained MIT Sloane School of Management

Resources to support educators and students

Teaching Children About Deepfake Technologies
https://elearningindustry.com/teaching-children-about-deepfake-technologies
Overview of some strategies to explore and use in the classroom to support children
Media Literacy in the Age of Deep Fakes
https://deepfakes.virtuality.mit.edu/
A in depth look at Media Literacy in the context of Deep Fames by MIT educator literacy project
Deepfakes: When you can’t believe your own eyes
https://newslit.org/tips-tools/deepfakes-when-you-cant-believe-your-own-eyes
Explaining how deep fakes are.
Deep Fake Literacy: Creating, using , misusing and detecting Synthetic Media
ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DLxLY-KY4I
Webinar walking through the steps of detecting deep fakes.
Fakeout
https://www.timeforkids.com/g56/fakeout-2/
From Time Magazine an article to support students understanding deep fakes
Deep Dive into Deep Fakes: Media Literacy in a World Where Seeing Is no Longer Believing
https://www.slj.com/story/Deep-Dive-into-Deep-Fakes-Media-Literacy-in-a-World-Where-Seeing-Is-no-Longer-Believing
The School Library Journal in-depth look at Deep Fakes through the lens of information literacy
Lesson plan; Detecting deepfakes — don’t be fooled by disinformation
https://annmichaelsen.com/2022/12/15/lesson-plan-detecting-deepfakes-dont-be-fooled-by-disinformation/
A lesson plan to support this topic for MS and HS students
Deepfakes: Resources for All Age
https://programminglibrarian.org/blog/deepfakes-part-2-resources-all-ages
American Library Association Public Programs Office share a portal of resources on the topic of Deep Fakes
Skin Deep: Deep Fakes and Misinformation
https://tacticaltech.org/news/skin-deep-deepfakes/
An in-depth look and resources to build lessons witgh students and/or activities for educators PD on the topic of deep fakes
Media Literacy: Deepfakes
https://guides.lib.lsu.edu/medialiteracy/deepfakes
Louisiana State University Library resource page to better understand Deep Fakes and information literacy

Digital Citizenship to Digital Fluency

Alzette Luxembourg Photo J.Mikton

2020 is an opportunity for schools to re-explore their relationship to digital citizenship. The growing erosion of our privacy as well as our amplified cohabitation with Artificial Intelligence (AI) present us with new challenges.

We are tracked 24/7 with digital ecosystem grids which have become seamless and frictionless parts of our daily routines. In (The Age of Surveillance Capitalism), Shoshana Zuboff describes this process of tracking. She calls the information that makes up these digital ecosystem grids “behavior surplus“. Behavior surplus is the personal data that we leave on our devices and give away daily based on a mutual agreement (user agreements) between the digital companies and us. These agreements (when is the last time you read a user agreement?) give permission for our behaviors online/offline to be tracked, collected, monitored and analyzed by companies and in some cases governments at will. The purpose of “surveillance capitalism”  is to leverage this “behavior surplus” to mitigate the uncertainty of our desires and to better predict what we will do. This is then turned into a profitable commodity. The value of our “behavior surplus” is unprecedented and the raw material of human data is fueling the engines of innovation, economics, politics and power.

Over the past few years, AI has had a growing impact on our lives, more often than we realise. Daily, it seems we develop a growing dependency on this cohabitation with AI: be it our GPS, HomeAssistant, iRobot vacuum cleaner, Health Device, DatingApps, SmartWatch, or SmartTV.  For our students, this seamless integration of AI into our lives often comes as a frictionless change. Tik Tok is a great example of this – a social media platform with sophisticated AI and unprecedented tracking algorithms, which in a short time added 1 billion users. Overnight, Tik Tok become a teen favorite and serious competition to Snapchat and Instagram.  For many educators, new digital consumables are embraced with hesitancy but somehow often the convenience is enticing enough for us to succumb to the charm of the “smart” and “wifi“ ready products.

I have worked with groups of educators and students to build a series of lessons around ARTE’s Do Not Track  in order to highlight the complexity and intricacies of how we are tracked. The different episodes are thoughtfully constructed with interactive components breaking down the erosion of privacy. I am surprised how often a percentage of students confidently express their indifference with this erosion of privacy and its implications. In some ways this makes sense. If the current privacy landscape is the sole point of reference, the current state of privacy is interpreted as normal. In comparison, educators interacting with ARTE’s Do Not Track respond with far more anxious discomfort as for many this erosion is compared to experiences where individuals felt greater control over their privacy. As we re-explore digital citizenship, we need to take these varying perspectives into consideration.


The fact is that most of our students are highly proficient digital consumers and not digital natives. The same goes for many educators in general. If we think of our own interactions with digital environments, it’s very likely that most of our time is focused on consumption.

We need to consider re-framing how we support educators and students in a school setting away from a sole focus on digital citizenship to a broader focus on digital fluency. This requires us to develop an approach where the focus is on developing purposeful connections to our digital ecosystems with the goal of becoming ethical digital creators of content. 


The concept and idea behind digital fluency is built on the work of the DQ Institute and its well thought out DQ Framework and the 8 digital intelligences. Digital fluency is facilitating an approach where learning opportunities are constructed around the natural connections of our day to day lives with these 8 digital intelligences. The important aspect of this focus is not excluding other essential learning in the curriculum. To make this meaningful, digital fluency needs to have clear connection points to personal experience, ensure these connection points are purposeful, and build on the learning already taking place in a school’s curriculum. 


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The above graph is one sample of several surveys done with middle school students asking them what areas of the DQ Framework they would like to learn and focus on. Interestingly, there was a clear pattern across several groups for Digital Safety as the highest priority (from the DQ Competencies.)


An important aspect of this is allowing student voice to actively guide the design of these digital fluency connections. They are identifying valuable needs and ensuring this open communication is key to making this shift meaningful to them.


Here are some examples of what digital fluency could look like, and what some schools are already actively creating. One example is giving high school students a LinkedIn account and spending time supporting what it means to have a public profile and how to curate a positive digital footprint compared to a personal social media footprint. Other schools are creating blended courses for parents on how to understand the difference between the pedagogic use of digital devices in schools and the challenges of a more open ended environment of digital device use outside of school in the home. Another example is having students develop public service announcements regarding malware and then coaching younger students on how to identify phishing emails and how to manage an antivirus app. Another is walking through the architecture of effective password creation and developing sustainable strategies to ensure a solid level of security in the students personal lives as a podcast. Or having students coach their parents through the privacy and security settings of their favorite app and create a how-to help screencast.

It is through these activities that participants build on a set of dispositions, skills and knowledge where they feel a sense of autonomy in addressing the complexities, challenges and opportunities of the digital ecosystems we are so intimately connected to. 

The new decade at our doorstep will be intrinsically connected to cohabitation with AI and a dilution of the autonomy we have with our privacy. Scaffolding digital fluency as an essential part of learning provides a guide for students to shift their energies away from being passive digital consumers. Digital fluency provides a mindset to better understand the importance of the ethical responsibilities of digital creation and the implications of the digital ecosystems which permeate our lives, both visible and invisible. Ignoring this will just amplify a society of passive digital consumers, while eroding our free will.

John Mikton

Sources-References

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 15 Jan. 2019, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26195941-the-age-of-surveillance-capitalism
Asthana, Anushka, et al. “The Strange World of TikTok: Viral Videos and Chinese Censorship – Podcast.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 7 Oct. 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/audio/2019/oct/07/strange-world-tiktok-viral-videos-chinese-censorship
Written by Yuhyun Park, Founder and Chief Executive Officer. “8 Digital Skills We Must Teach Our Children.” World Economic Forum, www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/06/8-digital-skills-we-must-teach-our-children/.
DQ Framework: “What Is the DQ Framework?” DQ Institute, http://www.dqinstitute.org/dq-framework/.
“Coalition for Digital Intelligence.” Coalition for Digital Intelligence, www.coalitionfordigitalintelligence


2018

Photo JM
Nyon, Vaud, Switzerland.

As the first days of 2018 arrive, any reflections on last year seem to contain an uncomfortable rawness because of the events continuously populating our devices – the immediacy, brutality and complexity of a world fueled by- FakeNews?”, each one of us trying to construct a context in the “Filter Bubble” choreographed by algorithms from which we build a sense of the world we live in.

As International School educators, we straddle between the walled garden of “school” and the outside “world”. The reality is that we are surrounded by constant change and ambiguity. But there is a gap between the accelerated rate of change and our capacity to adapt to it. For some, the gap is wide. For others, the gap stays the same, and for a few, the gap is narrowing. How we interpret and engage with the gap and our own capacity to keep up influences many of our feelings and emotions. These in turn fuel the perceptions, opinions and behaviors with which we express ourselves.

International Schools have to juggle the fine line between ensuring students and parents are pleased and ensuring that they feel safe, challenged and cared for. In the unique world of International Schools, a percentage of parents come from a comfortable socio- economic environment. Often times, their education is a contributing factor to their current positions. This education provided the opportunities for their successes and their economic prosperity. Living with this becomes a strong marker in what International School parents believe their children should get from an education and an International School. This pedagogic reference point in many cases 25+ years old. The world was a very very different place then. However we try as schools to innovate, change and adapt, we do this with a level of caution and reservation. At the end of the day, the invisible mandate between parents and international schools, is “provide my child with stability, continuity, what I remember from my school days and more certainty then I have in my life today“.

As educators, we fall into a similar narrative. We have a desire for of stability, continuity, and more certainty than in the outside world we interact with. We do innovate and change in our schools, but the presence of the invisible mandate between our parents and schools influences the level by which we break the status quo.

Photo JM
St. Cergue Switzerland

Today the level of stability, continuity, and certainty that we were once used to has eroded. Uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility are an unavoidable part of the day. The complexity of this change permeates into everyone’s lives, and often not by choice.

2018, is an opportunity to embrace the world’s uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility, not as something eroding our past and challenging our present, but as an opportunity to re-frame the possibilities in front of us as a unique and rich learning journey. We have a responsibility to take this on in our roles as mentors, facilitators and educators. We bring a wisdom, resilience and care that has served us well and can continue to serve us today. Many of our students will one day be International School parents or educators who look back at their education as a point of reference for their own success. The measures will be different. We live in a world where uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility are part of our lives. We should not depend on reference points from our past to give us stability, continuity and certainty. The gap for many will still get bigger and more uncomfortable. But hopefully, in 2018, we can work to bridge that gap as well.

John Mikton @beyonddigital.org

Puppets on a String


CC0 License: https://www.pexels.com/photo/bag-electronics-girl-hands-359757/

 The post is inspired by a L2talk I did at the Learning2 Europe conference in Warsaw.

“Every storyteller has a bias – and so does every platform”-  Andrew Postman  “My Dad Predicted Trump in 1985 – It’s Not Orwell, He Warned, It’s Brave New World.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 02 Feb. 2017

I am an addict. Are you too? Don’t you hate it when you can’t find your phone, and a friend has to call it.  Maybe the first thing you did this morning was check your phone and the last thing you did today was check your phone.  Think of it, we walk and text, and even drive and text. Have you had this happen,  you are in a social situation and you go the bathroom  to check an update. You are standing on a street corner and suddenly realize you are on your phone swiping at it, unconsciously. Then there is the feeling you get when you post a picture on a social media feed. The “likes” start coming in. It feels good, really good,  and then you check back and back. You post an update and there no “likes”.  You start wondering to yourself what is going on?


(CC BY 2.0) Photo taken by Angus MacAskill “Rat” https://www.flickr.com/photos/19951543@N00/3908678004/

I am sure you’ve heard about B.J Skinner’s rat experiment. The first rat had a lever in its cage, and every time it hit the lever food would come out. The second rat in the same set-up, hit the lever and nothing came out, no food. The third rat, same set-up, when it hit the lever a little food came out, then nothing, and then a lot, and then nothing again. The third rat developed an addiction. It quickly realized as long as it hit the lever it had a chance of getting some food.  This is called the principal of variable rewards. That feel good feeling, the dopamine rush. Behavior design as explained in this article (Scientist who make our apps addictive by Ian Leslie 1843 Economist October.November 2016) is a critical part of every app development. Tech companies employ behavior economist, psychologist, and psychiatrists in the creation, design and curation of our apps ecosystems to ensure we keep coming back.

So many of our interactions with devices are subconscious.  In Eric Pickersgill thought provoking photos series “Removed” (do spend some time on the link) he highlights the idea of being alone together as Sherry Turkle so aptly describes in her book Alone Together. We are often physically together with another person in a space sometimes even intimately but our mind’s burrowed in a phone.

As adults, we are quick t0 point the finger at kids for not being able to manage their screen-time. Think of this, the first time an infant will interact with a digital device is watching a parent using one. What does it feel like for a child in a pram looking up at their parent to only see a blank expression immersed in their smartphone.  The dinner table conversation interrupted by parents checking work emails. Mary Aiken in her book “ The Cyber Effect” states we are asking the wrong question.  Mary Aiken writes “We should not be asking at what age is it appropriate to give a digital device to an infant, but be asking the question when is it appropriate for an adult to interact with a digital device in front of an infant.”

A good example of behavior design is Snapchat and the new feature “streaks.”  The idea of streaks if you have a dialogue with a friend over 24 hours and you continue this over days, a flame emoji shows up.  In tandem a number counting your interactions keeps tally. Should one of you stop posting, an hour glass shows up giving you a heads up that the streak will disappear if you do not stay on. For adolescent’s social media relationships can be a gauge of their social capital.  Streaks adds a layer of complexity to the interactions.

I am not against digital devices. I have been working in Education Technology as a coach, coordinator, IT Director and Director of eLearning for over 20 years. I love the seamless and frictionless experience of our digital environments.


By Jim McDougall from Glasgow, Scotland (Puppets on a String Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It is a fact that our online data  (health apps, social media, travel, online games, GPS, shopping, search etc…) is collected, analyzed, and then sold to third parties,  or curated to give us a personalized online experiences with a clear goal to manipulate our behaviors. We as educators have an ethical responsibility to be skeptical of behavior design’s narrative. Let us challenge our learning communities to question the complexity and consequences of behavior design in our lives. Stuffing a digital citizenship lesson for 15 minutes during a Friday morning advisory is not enough. We need to make this narrative an integral part of the living curriculum.

Do we want to end up being puppets pulled by the strings of choreographed digital ecosystems which we do not control?

I think it is important to understand schools are most likely the last place where children interact with digital devices with balance and pedagogic purpose. We cannot take this for granted.

If we ignore behavior design we will loose something. Free will. I and you do not want to lose this.

John @ http://beyonddigital.org