Course 2 Final Project

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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

In An Internet Minute

User Created Image
User Created Image

Personal Privacy

In many ways, I don’t pay too much attention to personal privacy on Facebook.  I  have set my filters relatively high and I know I have signed up to post information to a public site, but most importantly, I use good judgement before posting which I think is one of the best filters of all.  Irritated with work? Not going to write about it on FB.  Mad at my husband – nada on my newsfeed.  Why?  Because that is not the forum in which I choose to air my frustrations. I do join groups based on my interests but again, I am mindful of how much information the people in these groups need.


This is not the approach everyone takes. I read about a case in Baltimore, Maryland about a 12 year old girl who was abducted and raped after her attacker initiated contact (which she reciprocated) through the live chat channel on her XBox. Her mom said she knew her child was chatting online but wasn’t aware of nature of the conversations.  Prior to her abduction, she engaged in another chat with another user in which she expressed remorse over the depth of information she had shared. After reading The Myth of Online Predators (which is over 5 years old) I would say that while we don’t want to solely focus on the doom and gloom of potential predators, I do think that the evolution of the internet is happening at such a fast pace, that we do have to continue to be vigilant rather than seek solace in the statistics quoted in the above article.

According to police in the Baltimore case:

Kik has become quite popular with minors, and anyone who knows a Kik account name can send messages to that user, which has made Kik an apparent hit with pedophiles, according to anecdotes from law enforcement officials across the country and around the world. One self-acknowledged pedophile told New Jersey’s The Trentonian that Kik was especially effective for obtaining pornographic images of children, particularly when combined with an app called Hit Me Up, which is no longer available in the US iOS app store.

Student Privacy

If you take a look at the Kik website, it looks harmless. I think this is where the value of strong internet safety teaching comes in.  Students need to be aware of the potential dangers and act responsibly even when parents or teachers are not watching.

At the same time, when parents ask me about how to keep their kids safe online, one of the first things I suggest is having computers used in public spaces in the home – not the bedroom. While this is not obviously a one-stop solution, I think it creates an atmosphere in which parents and children can co-exist and hopefully not get so deeply into inappropriate chat situations.

One of the things I talk about with my students with regard to privacy is the idea of optional contributions. There are so many ways in which websites can seek out our personal information. One of them is to add an asterisk* to indicate the field must be filled in. Other fields are either left without an asterisk or with the word (optional) beside them. I tell my students to think about why they may or may not fill these fields in. Primarily, my argument is that if they don’t really need the information, why give it to them?

Another is the chat forum.  How much time spent here is too much? We all know that the internet can “suck you in” – one click to another…but how much is too much for our students?

User Created Image. Photo Credit
User Created Image. Photo Credit

Take a look at what happens in “an internet minute” and you will see that this is a platform that is mind-blowingly huge.  Trying to block every user with ill-intentions is not going to happen.  Teaching our children to make smart choices, that is something we can (and should) do.



Course 2 Final Project: Seeking Collaborators!

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Option 2: In a small group that contains at least one person outside your school, create a unit planner (using the UbD template) on the enduring understanding of this course that helps teach students about 21st Century Literacy Ideas, Questions, and Issues. Include a reflective blog post describing choices you made in developing the unit planner i.e. strategies used, topics covered, unit evaluation etc. In your blog post embed your unit planner from Google Docs.

I would like to work on creating a unit planner for Digital Citizenship for upper Elementary students (Grades 3-5). We have some resources for this in place already, primarily from the Commonsense Media curriculum and the ISTE standards but I would like to create a unit that not only embodies these but also:

  • celebrates the awesomeness of the internet
  • focuses on the ways in which the internet is used for good
  • encourages the development of a personal brand
  • helps students develop a positive digital footprint

I am at a PYP school so this would be wrapped up in an inquiry based approach to teaching and learning.

Interested?  I knew you would be!  Leave a comment below if this is something you are interested in joining me on!

“The Internet” Killed Grandma


I got a request from a teacher to share some ideas about Digital Citizenship with her class. No real specifics, just ‘anything’ on the subject.  We had already started by signing up for Digital Passport and they had been working in class on this idea, but she wanted a bit more.

I had been reading about the use of props to explain Digital Citizenship and whilst I didn’t have the props with me, I had the next best thing: a photo slideshow.

SIDE NOTE: I made my slideshow using Google Slides.  If you are unfamiliar with Google Slides but familiar with Keynote or Powerpoint you will find it an easy transition.The best reason for switching to Google Slides? The search features are the same as Google which means you can filter images for only those which allow noncommercial use with modification.  You can also filter size, picture style, color and upload to your presentation via URL.  So handy!  Here is my Tool Kit presentation. 

EXTRA SIDE NOTE: I made my presentation last week to use with students. Today I found the slides already created with additional guiding questions which I have shared with the class teachers as an addition to our discussions:

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Each picture was supposed to connect the students with an idea to do with digital citizenship: the padlock represents strong passwords, the toothbrush to remind you that you don’t share your toothbrush so you shouldn’t share your passwords (love that one). The picture of Grandma was to remind you to ask yourself “What would Grandma think?” – would you be comfortable doing what you are doing if Grandma was watching? Seems logical except that some kids said “Don’t post pictures of your family because bad guys will track you down and know where you live and they will kill you and your grandma.”

Seriously.  Dead serious.  These kids were not playing.  Fourth graders.

This really bothers me.  Why is the internet and online activity put in such a harsh light? Are our practices in need of evolving? Do we need to educate parents? Ourselves? Is the idea that a photo of a loving grandma triggers the thought of death in the mind of a fourth grader not worrisome?

Most of the reasoning behind talking about internet safety and responsible use came down (in the minds of many students) to the idea that “bad people” were out to get us. I really feel that the internet gets a bad reputation primarily because people don’t understand how it works. The Myths and Truths article is great in that it debunks popular thoughts (myths) and sheds more important truths for parents and educators. I am all for safety measures but at the same time, pretty much anything can kill you if done in excess, inappropriately or without caution. Case in point:

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A popular image has been circulating that sums up the more positive aspects of citizenship and digital citizenship in one.  I particularly like the extension questions that help to clarify the thinking at each point. But are these things alone, enough?

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Just before our October break, I got an email from someone I have never met in person but we share mutual friends based on the Venn Diagram of our Twitter followers and have worked with some of the same people.  Based on following my blog for the past nine months, reading my resume online and feeling a connection with the ideas that I share, this person asked me to consider moving to her school to be the Assistant Principal and Curriculum Coordinator.

I love that. The power of an online presence right there in my own little case study!

I was told a few years ago by a recruiter at the Search Job Fair that he googled everyone who applied.  He said that your online presence was instrumental in how you would proceed with him:

Online Presence Doesn’t Reflect the School’s Values: End of the road in your recruitment journey. 

Online Presence is established or growing, mindful, thoughtful, and empowering: You were still in with a shot. 

Online Presence doesn’t exist: You were not ready for his school. 

In his words, the job market was competitive and he had to think of ways to determine who he would spend time with.  Using his logic, a poorly constructed digital footprint was just as damning as an non-existant one. For some, this could be a daunting thought!

Both of these recruiters were looking for connections. They wanted to connect with people who share the same ideas or are inspired to work with those that can articulate their thinking and are looking to connect with others. As I have been helping another friend with her Search Associates applications, the word that keeps showing up in the job descriptions is connected.  Recruiters are looking for connected educators who can connect ideas, connect with other educators, connect with their students. It is one thing to say that you are connected, it is another to prove this via a number of avenues – including your connected, online presence.

I like the idea of adding the idea of connectivity to our repertoire of tools when teaching kids about digital footprints. The topic is much broader than simply being safe and thinking about your posts. It is about creating an online impression similar to your real-life impression.  It is about connecting with others who share the same ideas, adding to the conversation in order to spark new ideas, and sharing generously of yourself with a community of learners.

As technology expert and education advocate, Will Richardson explains:

One of my worst fears as [my children] grow older is that they won’t be Googled well. … that when a certain someone (read: admissions officer, employer, potential mate) enters “Tess Richardson” into the search line of the browser, what comes up will be less than impressive. That a quick surf through the top five hits will fail to astound with examples of her creativity, collaborative skills, and change-the-world work. Or, even worse, that no links about her will come up at all.  Will Richardson

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With this in mind, I think that some of the leading creators of Digital Citizenship materials, such as the fabulous Commonsense Media, would do well to update their materials to include reference to the idea that ‘good’ digital citizens use their online time to connect with ideas that inspire them and share their learning in community with others.

I think if we create the image of the web as something positive, something we can learn from and contribute to, we we start to see the evolution of even greater innovation and idea spreading – and fewer dead grandmas.