Course Three: Final Project

It was really hard for me to decide on what to do for this project.  For starters, I had wanted to do the resume redesign.  I liked my old resume but wanted to update it and there were a couple of elements that I had previously thought were interesting but now just saw them as too gimmicky.  Once I started, however, I began to think that the whole concept of an infographic type resume was too gimmicky.  Would it be able to convey the right amount of information? Would people read it or just think I was being foolish?  Would other (read: traditional) resumes stand out as being more professional?

I am a believer in:

  1. Less is more
  2. Being true to who you are
  3. Trying something different

So I stuck with the plan to redesign my resume.  But then a friend asked me if I was applying for the ADE (Apple Distinguished Educator) program this year and I did I know the applications closed in three days, AND did I know that I would need to make and submit a two minute (no more!) video that told my story?  Ahhh…, no, and no.  But I looked into it and I thought, why not and so I got sidetracked with making my first iMovie which turned out to be so easy (on the iPad) and pretty fun actually.

But this left my resume redesign hanging, mid-makeover.  And now I was creating a digital story – another project option.  What to do?  I have decided to share both here as I would really love some feedback on both.  The Apple application is submitted and there is little to do but wait for the results.  I will admit, I felt like I was doing really obvious product placement with my voiceover and I wonder if I wasn’t too literal in my narrative.  I think it could have been more creative but at the same time, I grabbed my iPad on a typical Thursday and took it to every class and that is what my day really looks like in photos and video.  I was able to support the video application with 4 long-answer responses to my use of technology and general teaching practice and so the video was meant to augment the information that was shared in writing.  In that regard, I think I could have (again) been a bit more creative and less documentary in my narrative and image choice.

Here’s the video:

So, once this was submitted, it was back to my “About Me” page and the resume redesign.  This is what I was already working with: A three page document that outlined my teaching history and qualifications, my ‘Golden Circle’, and some highlighted areas of expertise:





What I liked about this:

  • Color scheme is not too overpowering and at the same time, it stands out.
  • At the time, I like the angular front page – I thought it made me look edgy and different
  • The opportunity to talk about my “why”
  • The more detailed description of things that were important highlights in my career.

What needed to change:

  • I think it was too long – many places are now down to a 1 page resume and I don’t want to bank on them turning the page.
  • The angles needed to go – too difficult to skim read effectively
  • The last page is very wordy
  • It seemed to be neither CV or Infographic but somewhere in random land between the two.


So what does it look like now? 

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 19.15.11Sonya terBorg – Resume *PDF version

I tried to consolidate all things that were important to me into the one page.  My thoughts on this version:

  • I like the little icons (thanks Noun Project!) as I think they add a clean visual to the document
  • I like the photo of me and my daughter as it shows a very important part of who I am without me having to articulate that I am a mom
  • I like the QR code link to my personal blog
  • Creating the ‘bar graph’ of things I believe in was actually really hard – the ranking of items – and I liked that this gave me the opportunity to reflect on what was important to me, philosophically
  • I am on the fence with the L/R Brain although I do like the idea of this. I just took an online quiz and that was the result and so I took the key words from the test analysis and created the little graphic.
  • I really like the “Let me help you” and “Hire me” titles (this idea ‘remixed from #23 on this list) and these titles helped me to focus on what I wanted to say about my skills and my purpose
  • I thought the timeline was an easy way to see where I have been although it does make it clear how much I jump around!
  • I really wanted to keep the concentric circles but I modified the wordiness of them and refined my purpose.

Throughout this course, I have spent so long looking at elements of good design that it really was hard to narrow this down.  I think the resume looks good (it is entirely done in Pages, btw, as I wanted to try not using anything ‘fancy’ but to see if I could create something in a fairly standard program).  I do think I will also create a ‘slick professional’ resume that is less infographic-ish.

I think this would stand out in a pile of resumes – I just hope for the right reasons and not because the recruiter wanted to be sure to not take a second look!  I think I would like to partner this resume with an online profile such as the one I am working on at  and I updated a previous one that I had created at

In discussing my various resumes with one of the administrators at my school, I was reminded that a generic resume is rarely going to get you anything but a generic job. If you want a particular job, you are going to have to tweak the resume you share in order to best suit the requirements of the job.

Visualize This!

If you are ever in the market for an infographic for kids, go to Pinterest and do a search for “infographics” “kids”.  Find one to use was no easy task – there were so many great ones to choose from!

I am a little one-track minded at the moment with the PYP Exhibition about to start at our school. With that in mind, I decided to pick out a few infographics to support the Exhibition – but for different reasons.

1.To showcase what might be going on with our students

The exhibition can be stressful for us as teachers, but also for kids.  I liked this infographic because it identifies potential stressors, offers kid-tested solutions for resolving the stress (and reminding teachers to integrate opportunities for things such as movement, music, and time outside during the school day), and it gives parents some tips on supporting their child.  It is fairly accessible, graphically, although still contains a lot of text which could be challenging for those without English as a first language. 

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2. To show how infographics can be created in “real life”:

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This is from a Portuguese website in which ‘real life’ photographs are taken and edited to become infographics.  I really like this idea of mixing the concrete materials with the data visualisation.  This is accessible for kids and a great way for them to showcase statistics that they have gathered over the course of their inquiries. 


3. To show how two things can be compared

Many times, the students will end up comparing two different things. I really liked this infographic that uses direct comparison and photography to showcase the data.  Again, I think that the ideas in this infographic are ones that could be replicated by our students in order to share their own data.  I liked that for this example (owning a cat or a dog) it was an idea that was accessible to the kids at their level while still be sophisticated in design and depth of information shared. 

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4. To show how to use everyday objects to visualize data

I really like this idea of taking something like Lego or other toys and using them to convey a message.  The possibilities for arranging legos and photographing them (or just displaying them during the exhibition) are endless.  This is definitely something that I think if you shared this picture with kids, they would very quickly and very easily make up their own designs with the information they have from their research. And they look cool too! 

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5. To show the key points of Infographic design in an infographic.

This little set wouldn’t be complete if there wasn’t a ‘how to’ infographic! I like this one for the clear and simple way that it outlines the key features of a good infographic and gives a few pointers about fonts and colors.  I also like that it references adding the sources from where you got your information.  This isn’t perhaps the MOST kid-friendly but I think it does a good job of outlining some of the key points – until you get one of your expert infographic groups to make their own Infographic on Infographics! 

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Digitally Yours…

I love stories.  I just finished a good 45 minutes (maybe longer?) of analogue storytelling with my 21 month old daughter – that kid loves a story! (She also can say “iPad” and knows how to find the apps for kids that she likes by herself, much to our chagrin!). But how about in class?  How do I use storytelling of the digital kind?

Last week, I shared the video that I had created for my grade three classes on Coal and Electricity.  I took a written explanation that one of the teachers had created and I set it to photos, icons, and a catchy tune.  It was remarkable to me to see the depth of understanding that arose from simply speaking a story aloud and adding pictures to support the text.This was created using Adobe Voice. I had planned on learning a new tool for the purpose of creating this but time got the best of me so I stuck with what I knew.

With my fourth grade students, we were creating a digital story on the topic of migration after interviewing a friend or family member.  We used Keynote and spent a lot of time looking at transitions, adding a voice-over, and choosing background music (from the totally great site Jamendo which offers CC licensed music).

One of my favorite stories to read as a read-aloud is Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  Her book is magnificent and if you teach grade 4-6 it would be great for your kids.  It is a book that I hope won’t ever be made digital because the print version is just so good. But what I do love, is the amazing work created by a fan of the book to curate the pop-culture that is referenced in the book and to provide a digital companion library of videos, pictures, soundbites and more that are mentioned within each chapter.

Working with EAL students and native English speakers it is important to remember that we don’t all share the same cultural backgrounds.  Some references that seem commonplace to those born or living in NYC (riding the subway) are completely foreign to someone who commutes to school by (bare)foot in rural New Zealand.  This digital companion to the book is so great to share with kids to get everyone on the same page.

I think the thing I have started thinking about more is the idea of embracing different types of media in order to tell a story.  Last week I mentioned the idea of creating instruction cards with links to videos.  This week, I made a set of cards that link to instructional videos explaining ‘how to’ use the app.  These are located for students to scan and find out the information for themselves.  The QR codes take the students to the videos made by the app creators but in the future I would love to see the students creating these stories to share with each other.

Click here to download PDF of all QR codes
Click here to download PDF of all QR codes

Last Friday I led a Teacher Talk at our school on Understanding by Design.  This is a 45 minute time slot in which a teacher is asked to present on the topic of their choosing. I have long been a fan of UbD but wanted to revisit this so picked this as my topic.  While not exactly a ‘story’, I did attempt to tell the story of UbD with an emphasis on the assessment component.  I shared the following slides and these were the only notes that I had.  As I progressed through the slides, the images and few words were all I needed to keep the story going. Digital Storytelling?  Maybe?

Understanding by Design – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

The Learning Technology teacher in our Middle School, Mitch Norris, does some great work with iBooks and his kids.  When creating their stories, Mitch has them use the digital tools to elevate the story beyond what could be done with the printed story. I like this idea.  He encourages them to embed video, use the zoom feature, add sounds and music to enhance the message digitally.

This post has a great series of tips for Digital Storytelling along with a great exemplar of a girl’s struggle with a medical condition at a young age.

I just read John’s post and the point that really resonated with me was the idea that we have to have a story to tell. I think once you know what you want to say, finding the pictures to support your ideas and blending it all together will fall into place.  In this regard, ‘storytelling’ and ‘digital storytelling’ really aren’t that different – they both begin with something worth sharing.


Presentation Zen-ish

Have you read “Ish” by Peter H. Reynolds?  If you have, you will know what I mean when I say that the presentation I am going to share with you is Presentation Zen-ish. Essentially, I think it is better than death by PowerPoint but still has room for improvement on a couple of levels.

First, the presentation.  This is a presentation that I gave in 2012 and 2013 for parents of students in my Grade 5 class, about to embark on the PYP Exhibition. The opening slide was on the screen as they arrived and as I introduced the purpose of the meeting.  The slideshow was then shared and narrated by me, and concluded with audience questions. Take a look:

What works? 
  • Visual images to anchor ideas.  In preparing for this presentation, I shared it with my kids and asked them to tell me what they thought I would say about the Exhibition during each slide.  They were about 95% correct, just based on their understanding and the pictures I had chosen.
  • Clean slides, clear images, no subtitles. I wanted the pictures to speak for themselves without text and I think the omission of words makes the images more memorable.


  • I have become more of a fan of photos over clipart so I would like to change that.
  • I think ‘actual’ photos over stock photos would work better for this kind of presentation. We take so many photos during Exhibition that I am sure I could find some to fit the information we want to share.
  • Citing sources! Yes, I ripped off all of these images with no credit to their creators.  This is the biggest reason for change needed (in my opinion). I feel like a thief every time I share this but I love the image oriented presentation too much to not have it ‘out there’.

Our daughter just started going to Kindergrippe (German daycare) for 3 1/2 days a week.  She loves it and so do we.  As a parent in the “school” system for the first time, I am realizing how desperately I want to connect with my child’s teachers and learn about how I can support her.

If I were shown a slideshow of bullet points in German, I may be able to understand about 5% of what is going on.  If I were shown a slideshow of pictures I think my understanding would rise significantly.  In thinking of my own understanding, I am wondering if having one or two works (Haiku Deck style) wouldn’t help our parents for whom English is not their first language? With that in mind, I think I could summarize the new version:

  • action photos of the exhibition in progress
  • additional stock photos to support ideas being shared
  • citation of all images
  • minimal, discreet captions/headings on slides

This course really has me thinking about how much I use visuals in my classroom. Now in the role of Learning Technology Teacher, much of my ‘presentation’ time is live rather than pre-prepared.  I make screencasts for my students (and teachers) but I think I could definitely work on making sure my directions are visual as well as verbal.

I like the idea of linking instructions to QR codes that lead to oral instructions linked to visuals and that is something I am in the process of working on next.

I found these tips from Haiku Deck really useful: Rockstar Tips for Killer Presentations


Speaking in Pictures

I am working with the third grade at the moment on explanation writing as part of their How the World Works unit of inquiry.  They are looking into energy production and different types of energy.  This is a unit that is often done in primary classrooms – almost every school I have taught in has some kind of electricity or energy unit at some grade level.

In writing explanations about energy production, the teachers chose the use of coal as the way they would model this process. They used a mentor text to show how an explanation is written – an A4 sized piece of writing, divided into six paragraphs which students read and highlighted.

With a high percentage of EAL students, this was a challenging task.  We were looking for ways to integrate technology into the unit and try and make the content more accessible to all students.  I took the piece of writing and used Adobe Voice to turn it into a 3 minute presentation.

If you haven’t used Voice yet, download it and give it a go.  It is brilliant.  The photos are all creative commons licensed (from Flickr, Pixabay etc) and the icons are from The Noun Project (another awesome source for images). The app is free and I have 1st and 2nd graders who will independently grab an iPad and create poems, stories, explanations and reflections using this app.

SIDE NOTE: Voice has recently been updated to include a lot of customization options when it comes to colors and fonts (another important facet of visual communication). It also now includes the ability to download your creations as videos to your iPad for use in other formats.  Previously your only option was to export to a unique web address for Voice presentations and this didn’t give you the option of embedding your video in a Keynote, for example. 

One of the benefits of Voice, is the ability to layer icons over images to show cause and effect or the connection between ideas: Pollution from burning the coal causes increased carbon dioxide in the air which results in global warming.

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Pollution by dbakr (Flickr) Global Warming by Luis Prado (The Noun Project)


The thing that was the coolest part of this for me, was after we played the video and discussed it as a class, we watched it again with the sound off. As the pictures flashed up on the screen, the kids were able to tell the explanation in their own words, guided by the images.  It was so great to see some of the kids who were typically so quiet and unresponsive calling out when they saw an image that resonated with them.  It was also great to see how discussions that led to new (or clarified) understanding evolved from the provocation of a picture:

This image (below) indicated that coal burning power plants needed to be built near water and transportation systems.  I was able to find a picture of a river and bridges/roads and put the power plant icon on top.  When we saw this picture, a big discussion started about the need for both water and roads in order to transport the coal.  This was something that the kids had not really picked up from the written text but the addition of pictures helped to clarify this idea.

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The bow river Calgary by davebloggs007 (Flickr)   Factory by Jamie Carrion (The Noun Project)


Students in this grade level are in the process of writing their own explanations for how energy is produced. When publishing their work with voice they will be looking critically at what they have written and sourcing images and icons that support their message.

I love that ‘thinking in pictures’ is part of our curriculum.  And I love the wealth of apps and sites (like Adobe Voice) that are supporting this development. Three of my favorite for visual literacy are Photos for Class, Haiku Deck, and the Compfight plugin for Edublogs.

Photos for Class is an offshoot of Storyboard That.  I first learned about this site when I completed a six week MOOC on Digital Storytelling at the beginning of the first semester. Photos for Class takes Flickr images that are CC licensed for reuse and when you download them, the image includes an attribution box with the photo details. The box is black with white text and looks pretty good in terms of discreetly and cleanly adding in the appropriate credits.  It is great to use with younger students to teach them about ‘saying thank you’ to the photographer and it is also great to use with older students who know that attribution is required but saves the time of having the students do it themselves. Here is what it looks like:


Haiku Deck also utilizes Flickr images (as well as stock photos that can be purchased) to create stunning presentations.  The space for text on your presentation is limited but after placing text on the slide, the app (iPad or web-based) asks you to identify the most important word on your slide and provides images to represent that word. Again, as with Adobe Voice and Photos for Class, the images are beautiful, high quality and help students to think visually.

A slide with ‘goals’ as the main idea generates the following images which helps the students to develop the idea that multiple images can be representative of the one word.

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This app is a great scaffold when you are first starting to ask students to connect ideas to images.

Compfight for Edublogs is awesome.  The small camera icon situated next to the ‘add media’ button takes you to an integrated Compfight search engine.  When you search for the desired image, you have the choice of small, medium, large and full-sized pictures. Once you make your size selection, the photo is embedded in your blog post with appropriate attribution. We have just started using Edublogs with our 4th graders for personal blogs/portfolios and this is a great way to keep students working within the blog interface while sourcing appropriately licensed and attributed content. This screencast shows how the Compfight plugin works in 33 seconds:
Adding Pictures – Compfight from Munich International School on Vimeo.



Work in Progress

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We use Edublogs at our school and all teachers have both a personal blog and a blog for their class work.  This year I shifted from the classroom to the IT Room and with the move came a new blog.  So far, the only change I have made is to the header image. The blog currently looks like this:

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I made the banner on Pages using a muted spectrum of colors but other than that, the blog is pretty much how I inherited it.

The purposes of this blog are:

  • to document student learning in IT on a daily/weekly basis
  • to provide a reference point for students/teachers/parents to locate resources (videos, websites, apps) for units of work
  • to curate information for different grades on different topics

I am not sure that it serves these purposes very well.  Ideally, I would like for it to be much more user-friendly with pictures to support the text.  While I like Edublogs as a blogging platform, I think there are some other tools out there that help to deliver a more aesthetically pleasing look when you are trying to curate information.

One of these tools is SMORE.  I love it.  The themes are varied and interesting and these can be embedded into posts or on pages for an interactive, attractive compilation of sources of information.  Here is an example for a G4 unit of inquiry:

This would replace what is currently in existence, which is a static page with the title of the unit and a list of links with descriptions:

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Not only does the Smore embed look better, I think it is so much more appealing to kids. My next struggle is how to get access to these.  Currently the path to the content looks like this:

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I would like for this to be shorter and include pictures (somehow!).  I also like the idea of getting something in there “Pinterest-style” with links to different resources in the clean, grid system employed by the pinning website:

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Currently, all of our blogs use the Edublogs default theme.  The idea behind this is so that parents who access the blogs will be looking at the same interface and therefore be able to navigate more effectively.

I have just started blogging with our fourth grade classes and by far, the most anticipated part of setting up the student blogs was the time in which they got to sit and sift through the multitude of templates for the theme of their blog.  We talk about the type of impression they want to make on their readers, what impression their blog gives off when you first open it up, and how the fonts and colors add to (or detract from) understanding of the content.  One of their first posts will be to explain how they came to set up their blog and choose the style of it.  They are taking screen shots and writing about why they made the visual choices they did.  I am looking forward to seeing how their style choices evolve as their blogging journey develops.

The other thing I am currently working on is a website for PYP Exhibition.  I put one of these together at my last school as a place for students, teachers, and parents to source all things Exhibition.  The website is called The Passion Project and I made it on Wix

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Visually, I like it but I want to make it more accessible to other teachers who want to collaborate on the project.  I would also want to include weekly overviews and just update the whole thing as I made this 3 years ago so I have a lot more to add and change. I am heading off to an AGIS (Association of German International Schools) conference this coming weekend and am leading a Roundtable discussion on the Exhibition so I want to have something started to share.  I am thinking Google Sites? Something that looks slick and clean but also allows for collaborative input from others around the world.  Any suggestions welcome!

Two of my favorites in terms of presentation ideas and connections with how the brain works are Garr Reynolds and John Medina.   With their powers combined and focusing on three of the 12 Brain Rules, Reynolds sheds some valuable light on how to get the most out of presentations and visual cues that will lead to understanding. These also apply to other forms of visual communication (blogs) and again, are things I want to take into consideration during the makeover process:

Course 2 Final Project

Image Credit

For this project, I worked with Nicola Takizawa on Option 2.  We chose to create a unit that guides the process of implementing student blogs at the end of Junior/Elementary school and incorporates the key principals of Digital Citizenship with a focus on the positive aspects of being a digital citizen – namely, harnessing and using your power for good.

I had a specific idea in mind when I put out a call for a collaborator on this project.  At the end of last year, it was agreed that having students start their PYP Exhibition AND learn the basics of blogging was too much.  We wanted our students to be familiar with blogging prior to beginning the Exhibition when this would be the forum for group and individual sharing of ideas, knowledge, reflection, and learning.

I am learning that when you are working with a larger group of teachers and students (last year there were five classes of 18, this year four classes of 22) that you have to be clear and specific in your guidelines and expectations.  You also need to be both supportive of the expertise of the teachers in the team and yet at the same time, true to the development of ideas and philosophy with regard to the implementation of technology in education.  It can’t be a decision that is made purely on the comfort level of the teachers but it also can’t be a decision made independently of these teachers.  It is a balancing act!  For a while I have been working on my own blogging guidelines for students thanks to the response from my PLN via a Twitter shoutout a few months ago. I hope to see these develop with input from our teachers, students, and parents.

I was (and still am) adamant that we focus on the positive.  I like the inclusion of branding and developing a voice and hope to see these things embedded into our daily curriculum.  I would also like to see the building of Digital Citizenship skills (such as the Digital Passport) in our younger grades.  The more I work with students across the Junior School, the more I am seeing how capable they are, given the right guidance. My second graders are able to appropriately source images  and we already include our students in password choice, private vs. personal information, and responsible use (among many other things).  For this unit, I really want to encourage and inspire kids and help them see that by having a blog, they have the opportunity to create and share learning that may not otherwise be possible.

Here is our unit planner:

I loved the opportunity to work with someone else, however I think it confirmed for me how challenging it can be (despite the amazing advances in technology) to communicate with people in different time zones.  Nicola and I utilized the message service within COETAIL but quickly dropped that in favor of a collaborative Google Doc with comments. Ultimately we ended up with lots of shared ideas, however my feedback to Nicola was that I would have loved it if we could have pulled off a Skype chat to nut out the basics of the unit and then refine it in the Google Doc chat.  It was still possible the way we did it but I feel it might have been more beneficial to have a “face to face” chat before the planning began.  Nonetheless, it was great to have someone to share ideas with and get inspiration from during this process.

Be Kinder Than Necessary

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

— Albert Schweitzer,

French philosopher and physician

I am a firm believer in kindness. And being kinder than necessary. To me, kindness is when you see a person, a thing, a situation that needs something and you help fill that need.  To serve others is truly the way to make a positive impact on the world.

In my role as Learning Technology Teacher in the Junior School, one thing I see across all classes is students who are motivated to help other students when using technology.  Someone will ask me to show them something.  I will show them and then their neighbour will want to know too. Before I can show them, the first student I helped will lean over: “I will show him!” and the two of them will chatter away, leaving me out of a job.  It is the best kind of unemployment I could hope for!

I explicitly build this into my teaching, asking “Who thinks they could teach someone how to….(do whatever we are doing)?”.  “Who thinks they could help someone else?”. It is not always a zen-like state of bliss but I am hopeful that kids will see the value in learning from each other.  And that these behaviours will spill over to other facets of their life outside of technology.

New perspectives.  Sharing understanding. Building on ideas.  These are reasons I choose to be connected as an educator and I believe these are ways students can make a positive impact through the use of technology.  Technology allows us to go places we may never go in ‘real life’. This exposure to ideas that were previously beyond our reach must make us more empathetic, more inquisitive, more inclined to think, question, and wonder. Some examples that come to mind:

  • Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and the incredible way in which he has shared his understandings of planet earth with us from his reflections in outer space.
  • Humans of New York genius, Brandon Stanton and the way he captures humanity from behind his camera lens in NYC and, a few months ago, around the world when he partnered with the UN to bring us snippets of humans in Iraq, Jordan, Uganda, Keyna and six other countries in the Middle East and Africa.
  • Peter Menzel’s Global Family Portrait: Material World and his Hungry Planet: What the World Eats both give amazing insights into what people have/have not in this world. This is one thing that is so hard to explain without experiencing it first-hand (especially poverty) but this goes some of the way to allowing students to connect globally to the ideas of others.

So, how can students use technology to make a positive impact on the world? I think Hugh Macleod has some great advice:

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He doesn’t stop there.  Here is a Hugh-inspired, play-by-play for you and your students:

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  1. Inspire and Be Inspired: Look, explore, inspire
  2. Become “Intoxicated by Possibility” – so much to do!  So little time!
  3. Dream big! – Nothing is out of your reach!
  4. Make a dent in the universe – The time is now, the person is you! Make A Dent!

I think in some ways, the key question here is misleading – or at the least, tends to lead us in a direction that we may not need to go in.  The use of technology is not the key point.  The ability to make a difference in our world is the key part.  Technology can help that process, it can accelerate that process, it can inspire that process.  The desire to connect with others, the opportunity to make a difference, that is what should be driving this process.

Use technology to connect, to inspire, to dream, and to act.  That is how we will change the world.

If you are still looking for some support to help you in this quest, one of my favorite, favorite websites is Inspire My Kids.  The name says it all and it does just that with a wealth of amazing resources designed to connect kids that want to make a difference.


Use Good Judgement In All Situations

For years, new employees were given a copy of the Nordstrom’s Employees Handbook – a 5×8 grey card containing the following 75 words:

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In more recent times, the ‘rule book’ has been abbreviated to simply state:

Use good judgement in all situations. 

The same logic could be applied to Digital Citizenship, but whose job is it to teach these skills? When and where should we be having these conversations with students? Are we taking this seriously?

I think all of these questions can be answered by reminding our students (and ourselves, and their parents) that:

  • we expect high standards
  • we have confidence in their ability
  • we expect good judgement to be used at all times
  • we are always available for questions

Even typing this, it sounds a little twee and I am sure some people would question whether these points meet the ‘taking this seriously’ question.  I would argue that empowering students works better than brow-beating them and setting high expectations that parallel what we expect from them when they are not connected to devices, makes it easier for them to connect with the idea of what a good digital citizen actually is.

I think this is essentially what this mom was doing when she included her note with the gift of a new phone, just more explicitly:

Gregory’s iPhone Contract | Janell Burley Hofmann
And I think this is what Empowered User Policies like this one aim to do as well: Instead of an AUP, how about an EUP (Empowered Use Policy)? The policy from the article above looks like this:

  1. Be empowered. Do awesome things. Share with us your ideas and what you can do. Amaze us.
  2. Be nice. Help foster a school community that is respectful and kind.
  3. Be smart and be safe. If you are uncertain, talk with us.
  4. Be careful and gentle. Our resources are limited. Help us take care of our devices and networks.
                            Thank you and let us know if you have any questions.
Why this approach?  I think we would hear a huge sigh of relief from parents and students that they are not staring down the barrel of 20 ‘do not’ bullet points.  I think this type of empowering language opens up conversations and assumes mutual respect. I also like that it highlights the idea of creating and connecting as positives – using the amazing power of the internet for good.
The way in which people engage online is a hot topic – and one that is making its way to the courts and in turn, newspaper headlines.  While not an example of student behavior, the United States Supreme Court is being asked to weigh in on statements made by individuals on Social Media platforms. The courts appear to be employing the tactics of good judgement and reaction to posted content by ‘reasonable people’:


What is the proper context for evaluating threatening statements, the chief justice wondered. “Is it a reasonable person …, or is it a reasonable teenager on the Internet? … Is it what the reasonable teenager thinks how [a message] would be understood by the recipient of the text?” “It will depend on to whom he is communicating the statement,” Dreeben said. “We all know that if we’re communicating among friends, particularly in face-­to-­face context, we can say certain things that will be understood as sarcasm. But when we widen the audience, … reasonable people are going to react to it by saying, ‘this requires attention…'”
So, what do we do?  I say, encourage awesomeness. Kid President has a pep talk just for you, because “Life is too short not to be awesome.”  In addition, make our expectations clear to both students and parents that we expect the same bbehaviours online as we see offline.  And to highlight the connection between respect for themselves and others, and their responsibility to themselves and their ability to create, curate, and inform.  Because we all need more awesome.

Steal Like An Artist

Everything is a remix. If you watch the series, you will know this to be true.  Are there any original ideas or are all ideas sparked by something that already exists, somewhere?  Science says we are all connected and if you watch this film, you might see new ways in which that is true – the arts and science bouncing off each other, creating theories and movements which mimic each other, disciplines evolving and co-existing together. Here’s the trailer to whet your appetite:

So where does that leave us? I would say in one of the most fortunate, creative, inspiring times in history.  The more I read about the topics we are covering in the course the more I think the motto should be “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.  It covers everything!  With this in mind, fair and ethical use of ideas already “out there” comes down to knowing how to Steal Like An Artist: to be able to differentiate between good theft and bad theft:


Austin Kleon suggests that when we honor those who have created before us by studying their work in depth rather that dipping into their work for a minute, when we give credit to all those who have inspired us, when we draw inspiration for who we are and who we want to be from a wide pool of talent, when we transform ideas into something truly our own, and when we create what can genuinely be called a remix (as opposed to a rip off) we have done ourselves proud.

It should be no surprise that Austin is friends with Kirby Ferguson.  The two co-presented with each other at SXSW2012.  This is what an Austin/Kirby mash-up looks like via FueledByCoffee artist Craighton Berman:





The ‘takeaways’ from these notes that should be shared with students?

  • Rubbish In/Rubbish Out: You are what you let into your life
  • There is a ‘hierarchy’ of creativity: It is ok to start with copying as inspiration but don’t stop there and call it what it is – not your own.
  • Ask yourself: Would you be ok with meeting the original creator of the work you are claiming as your own?

Here’s an example of what I consider “Good Theft” (and I may be biased because I am the artist in question!).  I am a big fan of Seth Godin.  Love him.  When he wrote his manifesto on education, I devoured it.  In it, he challenges people to do something with his ideas, so in the spirt of Dr. Seuss and mirroring the monochromatic, square book that I associate with Austin Kleon, I penned my own version of Stop Stealing Dreams and called it Imagine A School.



My list of creators that inspired this book is long, I wanted to be unique AND part of something, and while I haven’t stood in an elevator with Seth Godin, I have stood in an auditorium with him and he didn’t punch me in the face but rather gave me a standing ovation on behalf of all teachers who are trying to make a difference.

We have to teach responsible use but at the same time we have to teach awesome curation skills, expose our students to quality ideas that inspire, connect them with people who are making a noise.  The more they are exposed to how to do it right and more importantly WHY they need to care about doing it right, I believe the richer we all will be.

And it can start young.  My second graders are able to find images via Google search that are licensed for non-commercial reuse with modification.  My fourth graders are adding links to Keynotes to reference their images.  There are tools that are making it even easier for people to make the right choices – because they are being made for them.  Apps like Haiku Deck and Adobe Voice use Creative Commons licensed images when you search for a photo within their app or icons from The Noun Project which are licensed for reuse.  All images are then cited in the credits of the presentation and options are given for you to add your own credits if you source images from elsewhere.

Why? Why go to all this bother of citing, referencing and giving credit?  Because otherwise we are devaluing ourselves and the original creators of the work and drawing everyone into a less civilised society. And we are all better than that, right?

Be nice; stop plundering and looting.  By Jessica Hagy of Indexed
Be nice; stop plundering and looting. By Jessica Hagy of Indexed