Tag Archives: digital citizenship

A Few Options…

If you haven’t heard the Justine Sacco story, it is one educators should be aware of.  In short, with only a small social network (it was reported around 200 followers on Twitter at the time), a very inappropriate tweet got around the world, very quickly.  She was on a plane, not knowing that her name and a hashtag bearing it were trending throughout the world, and by the time she landed, her life was forever changed.

How quickly did it spread?  Check out the tweet below:

 

So as I see it, schools will see this and make a few choices.

1.  They will ignore it.

2.  They will talk about it with students and give them warnings about how social media can destroy lives and try to scare them off the medium.

3.  They will see the opportunity in this teachable moment to not only warn of the bad, but see that if something bad can spread so quickly, something good can do so as well.

Where is your school in this “Digital Citizenship” spectrum?  Hopefully we can turn stories like this around and focus on the idea of Digital Leadership and that our kids can do something powerful to make a positive impact on others, not simply focus on the negatives.

4 Things I Learned From Students This Week


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Sham Hardy

I spent the past week speaking to trustees, superintendents,  teachers, parents, and most importantly, students.  Working with all levels of school in a week, gives you a really interesting perspective, but I learned a great deal in working with a few thousand students this week.  Here are some of my takeaways:

  1. Let’s quit telling kids what they shouldn’t be doing, and try to push them to think about what they can do.  It was anti-bullying week in Ontario, and overhearing some students walking into my session, they were not excited about having to listen to me for an hour.  I asked them why, and they had said that they had heard the “cyberbullying” talk a million times.  I asked the one student was to give me a chance, and have an open mind.  I talked about “Digital Leadership, and at the end of the talk, he had come up to thank me because he knew what I was saying was different.  I did talk about “cyberbullying” for a part of my discussion with students, but I really want to communicate to them is that they don’t have to wait for the future to do something amazing.  The world is at their fingertips and they have opportunities that we never did.  They should take advantage of this fact and I try to show them things that they can do.  How excited would you be if you heard someone talk about all the things you shouldn’t do?
  2. Kids are already meeting “strangers” online.  One of the questions that I ask students this week is how many of them had met someone online first, and then met them offline.  It was easily over half (that admitted it).  This is a reality of the world and I would say that the majority of my friends now are people that I have met through Twitter or my blog first.  Think about it…How many of you have a friend that has married someone they met online?  It is becoming normal, and could become the norm soon enough.This would be even easier for students now to meet someone online.  If you have friends connected through Twitter, and one of them is on a community team, how hard is it for you to connect with a “friend of a friend” now through social media?  One of the suggestions that I give to families is that if a kid wants to meet with someone, that they have to video chat with that person before with a parent in the room.  If the person refuses, then they don’t meet.  We have to start talking to kids about how being safe, not banning the connections that many of them will make anyway, and many of us see value in.
  3. Little knowledge leads to little credibility.  One of the conversations that I had with a student was how sick she was of hearing from adults that don’t even use social media on how kids should act.  It makes sense doesn’t it?  Many educators get frustrated on hearing solutions on how to “fix” education from people that have never taught, or have limited time in schools.  How different is that then what the student is describing?  If we are going to talk with kids about how they are connecting online, it better come from a place of experience, as opposed to theoretical situations.
  4. Believe kids want to do great things.  This is a simple one.  The loudest applause I received this week was after a student asked me, “Why do you do what you do?”  When I responded that it is because I really believed in students and what they can do, and my focus was to do everything in my power to empower them, the kids gave me the loudest ovation I had received all week.  This is a truth for me.  I try to start from a positive place in every first interaction that I have with people and try my best to communicate that with them.  I give trust until I am taught otherwise.  Kids are less likely to do great things if they feel you don’t believe in them.  They could break your heart but I guess that is a risk that I am willing to take.

Although I could go on and on what I learned from students, I was just honoured to have the opportunity to connect with so many students this week.  They know a lot more than we give them credit for and if we listen, they can teach us quite a bit.

Amazed, Inspired and Happy

In a week where I have spent the majority of the time working with students, I have been really trying to promote the notion of “Digital Leadership,” and hoping the students look at some of the opportunities that are out there now to make a difference in the lives of others.  I have told the students that they do not have to wait for “the future” to make a difference, because they have the ability to do something now.  Some of them took me up on it, and one student started a blog trying to promote “acts of kindness”, while others started a Twitter page to compliment others in their school.  If you give them the chance, students can inspire you to become better.

Many of the conversations that I have with adults go directly to the “negative” online.  Although I understand the concerns, it is sometimes an “out” to not teach students about it, and sometimes comes from a lack of awareness.  Although I do talk a lot about all of the opportunities to do something great online, I do promote an awareness of the bad things that exist out there as well.  That is vital.  In reality, online is not the only place that bad things can happen, yet it is often the message that we share with our youth.  If we keep telling kids that the Internet is bad, they might just make that true.

Whatever you are looking for online, you will find it.  There is so much information out there, that there is going to be a lot in the negative.  So why not steer our kids to some of the amazing?  If I make the assumption that the majority of people in the world are good, and the majority of people are on the Internet, what does that tell me?  Where are we directing our students to go?

Awareness is vital and I will always teach that, but I am also going to continue to promote some of the great things that exist online.  In the last 12 hours, I have been amazed, inspired and “happy” with some of the things that I have seen shared.  Hopefully some of these will show some of the awesome that exists in our world that you can find online.

Be Amazed

This video is a compilation of 852 Instagram images from 852 different users to make one remarkable video.

 

Be Inspired

This is an amazing video that shows struggle, happiness, and perseverance from not only a mom and dad, but this amazing little guy.  (Grab tissues)

 

Be Happy

Pharrell Williams put together a 24 hour video for his new single “happy” and it is simply people dancing and smiling.  Simple, but I love it.

All of these videos I have seen in the last 12 hours, but it is probably because I was looking for them.  What are you trying to find and share with your students?

Your Choice to Share and My Choice to Look


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Roger Mommaerts

There is an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David goes to visit his friend Jeff at his new house.  Jeff’s wife Suzie is so excited to have someone see the new place–she immediately offers to give Larry “the tour.”  As only Larry David could do, he looks at her and says, “I’m good.”  He then goes on about how he “gets it” and understands what a house looks like and is comfortable not seeing what she has to share.  Immediately, she gets extremely upset and kicks Larry out of the house for his rudeness and obvious disinterest.

The funny thing about the whole incident is that Larry says what a lot of people are thinking.  I know that I am not really big on seeing someone else’s because I feel that “I get it.”  I also understand the other side of it–where you are excited to share something and you have a limited audience.  The interesting thing in Larry’s situation is that most people would think that he is rude for not having an interest in seeing what Suzie has to share.

So let’s say Suzie has a Facebook account and she decides that she is going to post a picture of every single room in her house.  What you will hear often about these people is that they tend to over-share, are narcissistic and self-indulgent.  The difference here is, she is still sharing but with a wider audience that has a choice to look or not.

So, share in-person with everyone that walks into your house and you are a good host, whether they care or not. But share on social media where only people who want to look do, and you are narcissistic.

#makessense

Often, my friends would go on trips, take a disposable camera, develop their pictures and share every single picture they took on the trip, no matter the quality.  This was a common thing for many.  A lot of people took these pictures to capture their memories, but many of them took them to also share their experiences with others.  Did we call these people self-indulgent?  Nope.  This was because this was what we grew up with.  Often their pictures were of a much worse quality because the way we developed pictures was not as cheap and easy to filter.  Nothing like looking at pictures with thumbs covering half of the shot!

Sometimes, the idea that people are more narcissistic now because of technology bothers me.  Many people have always been narcissistic, but maybe, now, we just have more opportunities to share?  Taking every single person through a room in your new house doesn’t seem too much different to me than posting a picture of every room in your new house on Facebook.  The big difference to me is I can choose to look if I want.

It drives me crazy when people complain about people over-sharing because we have a choice to view what we like.  I remember “unfriending” someone on Facebook because all of their status updates were of a negative nature and complained about how horrible life was.  They were like demotivational quotes that were REALLY effective.  Did I complain about it?  Maybe a little bit, but eventually I just chose to not look.  She had every right to post as I had every right to not look.

But I will tell you this.  My sister-in-law is a chronic “over-sharer.”  EVERY SINGLE DAY I have to put up with a bunch of pictures of her kids (my nephew and nieces) and watch them grow up in front of my eyes.  So annoying right?

Wrong.

Every single time she shares a picture of my nephew and nieces growing up, I am thankful that she does this.  I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like, but when I do, I am not surprised about how much they have grown because I am able to connect and see them often.  They also get to see me, and when I walk in, no matter the length of time, they run to me and tell me that they love me.  If my awesome sister-in-law did not share the kids growing up, I don’t think that I would feel as close to them.  Are her pictures for everyone?  Nope, but they are amazing to me and I am glad she shares as much as she does.

 

The Unfair World and the Low Bar


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Paul Sturgess

As I was listening to someone talk about “Digital Citizenship” practices in their school district, I wondered if this was really setting the bar too low in our practices within our schools.  As I think more about our world, and what kids have to deal with, it is pretty tough for them to just be “kids” and screw up the same way we did.  They live in a totally different world where many will “google” them before an interview, and because of something that they have done at the age of 16 or 17, they might lose a job.  If that was true when I was 17, I have no idea where I would be today.  I had the ability to screw up but the mindset was not to share your life publicly.  Now I believe that we have to be empathetic and give our kids some leeway and understanding for their mistakes, but does everyone feel this way?

The standards for kids aren’t just really high for what they do online, but what they do offline as well.  It is easy to do something inappropriate when you are sitting with friends, have one of your buddies record it on their phone, and share it with the world.  It reminds me of the time that a girl fell into a fountain while texting and it was posted for the world to see.  Something unintentional that happened offline now haunts her online without her permission to post.

We can look at this and realize that kids don’t have the way we did and feel bad for them…

Or…

We can also realize that our kids have opportunities that we never had.

Remember the movie “Pay it Forward”?  One of the big ideas from the movie was that doing something kind for others, and eventually, AMAZINGLY, it went around the world.  At that time, that was a pretty cool notion.  Now, when I write this post, anyone in the world can see it immediately.  I have had comments from people in Asia, Australia, Europe, as well as all over North America.  Getting an idea around the world is as easy as pressing “publish”.

So with the unfairness of what our kids deal with and a lot of the privacy that they (often on their accord) give up, are we trying to tip the scales in the other direction?  The idea of being “good” online is not really that inspirational, and reminds me of this quote that I have used before:

“People do not fail in life because they aim too high and miss. They fail in life, because they aim too low and hit.” (Unknown)

I like to think that our kids have an opportunity to make a real difference in our world and I love the idea of “Digital Leadership” to push our students to think of doing something more with social media.  The “Sincere Compliment” video did not only inspire kids in their school, but because it was shared openly, inspired many students/teachers (especially within Parkland School Division)  around the world to do great things for others.  I have seen a seven year old student in our district write one blog post, and receive 43 comments on her first try (some from her, but many from people all over the world).  She is learning at a young age that she has the power to share a message across the world with ease, and I believe if kids realize they have the power to make a difference, they will give it a shot.

This is more than just “existing” and “being good” online, it is about making a difference.  Isn’t that the bar we want to set for our kids, and if they miss, and are only good to one another, aren’t we still better off?

Engaging Parents in the Learning Process


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by bestlibrarian

“The role of parents in the education of their children cannot be overestimated.” ~Unknown

When you ask parents from any country in the world, what they ask their children at the end of the day about school, their question is very similar:

“What did you learn today?”

The disconcerting thing is that the answer is almost always exactly the same.

“Nothing.”

With some of the work that we are doing in Parkland School Division, we are really trying to engage parents in the learning of their child by opening the door into the classroom.  Through the use of blogs, twitter, and other social media outlets, the question can change to something similar to, “I saw that you were learning about (blank) today; can you tell me more about it?”

Different questions usually get different responses.  Improve the question and you are more likely to get a better answer.

Parent Participation vs Parent Engagement

Although the more parents can have a positive presence in our schools, the more they will build relationships within the school community, engagement is something different.  Children are shown to have a much better chance at success if their parent is actively engaged and reinforces the learning that is happening in the school.  Case in point; if you want to improve your child’s reading, read to them at a young age and model what you want to see.

Yet as students get older, many parents are uncertain about the learning that is happening and feel uncomfortable with the content.  The benefit of a lot of learning in our schools today is that it is not solely focused on learning content, but skills and process which are important aspects in a learner’s development.  Being able to engage in the process with your child, like reading, will help improve their learning.  That type of engagement brings learning to a different level in the home.

Are we becoming illiterate?

One of the most influential articles that I have read was by Will Richardson on the notion of expanding literacy. In it, Will discusses The National Council of Teachers of English definition of “21st Century Literacies”, and how many adults, not just kids, are becoming or illiterate.  For many, the notion of literacy boils down to reading and writing, yet it is much more.

“Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups.” NCTE

So with that in mind, what are parents doing at home?  Are they creating websites with their children, assessing what is good and bad information, creating videos and podcasts, and so on?  The majority of our students see the Internet as a place of consumption, not creation.  We need to shift that focus.

Mitch Resnick challenged this notion of consumption when he stated:

“We wouldn’t consider someone literate if they could read but couldn’t write. Are we literate if we consume content online, but don’t produce?”

Based on this ever-changing definition, we have to ask, “Are we literate?”

Keeping Kids Safe

People are quick to jump on using these new types of technologies as either “dumbing down” education (David Crystal’s research shows that reading and writing improve through the use of mobile devices as opposed to the other way around) or that kids will be unsafe.   The reality is that schools in partnership with parents, need to guide children to not only be safe, but to leverage these technologies so that children will have opportunities that we did not.

Carlene Oleksyn, a parent and pharmacist, has immersed herself in the use of social media, not only for the benefit of her own learning, but to ensure that she safely guides her children.  In a recent post on her blog titled, “The Talk”, she shares a conversation that she has with her children:

It started like this:

“Boys, when I need to hire someone do you know what one of the first things is I do?”

Nope, they had no idea.

“I google them,” I said. “I see what they post on Facebook, Twitter, blogs. If they have posted anything that is calling someone else down, is sexually inappropriate, or if they’ve made blatantly disrespectful comments on other people’s postings, I would tend not to hire that person.”

The difference between Carlene and many is not this talk, but it is the credibility that Carlene has from immersing herself in using these technologies herself.  By having a Twitter account, blog, amongst  other things, she has learned how to keep safe by stepping out and looking around first, as opposed to simply letting her kids run wild when they reach the age they are allowed to use social media based on a company’s terms of service.

From her experience, she is able to give some very relevant advice:

I think as parents we need to do three things for our kids:

  • Be aware of what our children are doing on the internet

  • Be on sites with them and teach as they go.

  • Be examples with our own digital identity.

Carlene understands that the world is changing, so she is taking advantage of the learning that can be done while helping her children navigate some murky waters to find a much more positive place.  She is setting a high standard for her kids not only through her words, but through her actions.

Concluding Thoughts

Kids existing online is not enough.  Many schools talk about the notion of “digital citizenship” but simply being a “citizen” is not the heights we should be aiming for offline, so why is it online?

Through my work, I have tried to focus on the idea of “Digital Leadership”; the notion of using the technologies that we have to make a positive difference in the lives of others.  I try to model this simply by writing this post and trying to build more awareness of the opportunities that technology affords parents and children in learning.  Some kids are doing amazing things.

Millgrove School was recently highlighted on Global TV for their work on trying to use social media for learning, but by doing good for their community and hoping to inspire others around the globe.  Isn’t that the standard we should be aiming for as school communities?

To be successful, educators do not only need the support of parents, we need their engagement.  The door is opening more every day to your child’s classroom.  Are you ready to step through?

See No Evil?


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by daveynin

I had the question yesterday from an IT Director (one that I have been asked several times) about the “issues” that happen when you open up social media in schools.  He told me about a principal that said that they continuously deal with issues because of Facebook, Twitter, etc. (remember…the sites are not the issue but the behaviour) and the principal said that it would be easier if they shut it down.  He then asked me how I would deal with it.

The first thing that popped into my head was this video of kids that aren’t any good at playing hide and seek:

This video really made me think that many believe if we close our eyes, nothing bad is happening.

Wrong.

In fact, if we shut down social media in schools, we are less likely to teach our kids how to use that sites safely and effectively, and students are more likely to make mistakes.  Isn’t education the main way we solve problems in our society or are we adopting “ignoring stuff” as the new solution?

Recently, I did an interview on this very topic and the host said that my logic on this topic was similar to getting kids to drink with parents at home.

Really?

When the adults in the room say things like this, it first of all terrifies me, and then makes me realize they have not seen the positive impact that social media can make on their lives and the lives of others.  I was so glad to see that Global Television recently wrote an article and shared a video on the work we are doing in PSD70, and more specifically, the classroom of Kelli Holden and her grade 4 students, to inform the public that there are a lot of positives that can come from the effective use of social media.

With anything, there is good and bad.  Ignoring teaching our kids about this medium is not going to help them in any way to see the positives and we can’t just say, “not our problem” anymore.  If we only teach the curriculum to our kids, we have failed.  It is imperative that we work with our students to be people that follow their passions, be positive citizens, and make a difference in their world now, not the world we lived in as kids.

Thanks to Emily Mertz for doing a wonderful story on our teachers and students at PSD70! Check out the video below if you are interested in seeing what our teachers are doing to make a difference.

Digital Leadership Defined

When I looked up the term “digital citizenship”, the first definition that I found was the following:

…teaching users the rules of good citizenship online; this usually includes email ettiquette, protecting private information, staying safe online, and how to deal with bullying, whether you’re a target or a bystander.

For the past couple of years, I have been really focusing on the notion of digital leadershipand although I have not seen a formal definition of what that would mean, I would like to think of it as this:

Using the vast reach of technology (especially the use of social media) to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others.

I have written about students such as Martha Payne before, as well as teachers who work to empower the voice of their students.  Yesterday though, I saw another great example of how a student is making a difference in the lives of his peers.  In our schools, it is understandable that we work towards (as a minimum) students understanding the notion of digital citizenship, but how often do we stop there?

We really need to push our students to make a change in their world and highlight how social media can give them an opportunity that we never were given as students.  Just being “citizens” online is the average; kids already exist online.  We should be pushing for much more than this.  Hopefully the video below can serve as an example and conversation starter for what a person can really do now to make a difference.

Personal and Professional vs. Public and Private


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker

During my time over in Australia, there was a lot of talk about the notion of having both a “personal” and “professional” identity on social media. The “personal” account would be one that is used with friends and family, where as the “professional” account would be one that is used with the work that you do in school.  Although I understand the notion behind what is being said here, I don’t know if this is what I would really be focusing on when working with students or educators.  We should really be focusing on the notion of “public and private” and how that works in our world.

This is not to say that you can’t have separate accounts.  I, for one, choose not to and blur the lines between personal and professional all the time.  For example, on my Facebook account, I have “friends” that are both people that I have grown up with as well as educators I learn from.  On Twitter,  I follow educators as well as celebrities.  What I am always aware of is that no matter who sees what I put out there, anyone can see it eventually, whether if it is through me or someone else.  I don’t “friend” students or their parents on Facebook, but I have no issue of them following me on Twitter, since that is totally open and anyone can see what is up there whether they have a Twitter account or not.

For example. let’s say a student wrote about how much they hated another student and started bullying them online.  Does it matter if the student said, “well this is my personal account”?  Even if the student wrote it in a “private” email, it can become public with a quick screen capture and shared with the world.  To me, anything that is posted online, you should consider “public” no matter what your “privacy” settings are.

Take this recent article from the Huffington Post regarding teachers being reprimanded for some of the things that they posted online after the US election.  Here is one of the statuses posted that got a teacher into trouble:

“Congrats Obama. As one of my students sang down the hallway, ‘We get to keep our fooood stamps’…which I pay for because they can’t budget their money…and really, neither can you.”

Do you think that it would matter if this is a personal or professional account?

What about the Natalie Munroe situation last year?  She actually tried to defend some of the extremely innappropriate things that she had said about students and parents:

Following the suspension, Munroe defended her online postings by writing on her blog that she had tried to remain as anonymous as possible (blogging under the name Natalie M.) and noted that she never mentioned her school or students by name. “I had 9 followers–2 of whom were my husband and myself, the other 7 were friends,” she wrote. “There’s this perception that I was trying to lambaste everyone in the school without heed. That’s bollocks. What bothers me so much about this situation is that what I wrote is being taken out of context. Of my 84 blogs, 60 of them had absolutely nothing to do with school or work.”

I am sure that every educator (and person for that matter) has said something inappropriate, but posting it online is probably not the smartest option.

Although the “Personal and Professional vs. Public and Private” is an important conversation, there are others ones that we should be having as well. I have been challenged before how kids and adults should stay offline totally as they will do nothing but cause issues for themselves in the future and I am reminded of this Bud Hunt quote:

“Do you ever want to say to folks who scream they don’t want their private lives online: ‘Maybe you should just try to be a better person.’?”

As I said before, you are more than welcome to have both but be fully aware of the consequences professionally that can happen from a “personal” account. I really think we should be talking to our kids about what stays offline (private) and what should be public, no matter who they are talking to online.  Also, is it really bad if we mix some of our personality into a “professional” account?  If we are thoughtful about it, could this not help our students and school community as see as more than simply “teachers” but as people?  The best teachers that I know always connect with students on some personal level, but they always keep it appropriate.  Is that not the rule of thumb that we could use online?

It is not that we can’t be ourselves online, but we should just be more cognizant of what we do there. Many of us, including myself, talk differently when we are around our closest friends and family.  I know that what you post online can take opportunities away from you, it could also provide opportunities as well.  I use the example often in workshops of two people applying for a job as a mechanic and one person writes on a resume that they can do an oil change, while another candidate posts a video on YouTube of them doing an oil change. Who would you hire?  In most cases, the one that has put their learning public and you know they can do the job (it still has to be good work), are at an advantage.  There are definitely some things that you want public. Seth Godin shares his belief and how we should put our best work online:

“Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record. The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you’re on Candid Camera, because you are.”

The “blur” in our world is ironically becoming clearer to me.  Personal or professional is not necessarily the conversation we should be having as much anymore with our students and each other.  What we make “public” is something we need to be taking more into consideration.

Denying Our World


cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by swanksalot

This is a true story and I will do my best to tell it from my memory…

Presenting to a group of staff and students in an Australian school, with them all in the same room (which was something that I think we should do a lot more of!), I talked about the notion of “Digital Footprint”.  In this talk, I shared some of the negatives of being online, but also discussing the huge potential you can have by understanding your own digital footprint and leveraging it as well.

I was actually quite surprised when one of the teachers had stated in front of the students that she would never go on Facebook because she would “lose her job” because of all the stuff (she actually didn’t say “stuff” but another ‘s’ word in front of the kids…wow) she didn’t want others to see in her personal life.  As I challenged her on this statement that simply being online does not mean you will lose your job, she backed off but you could see she still did not see that being online in any way could be a good thing for our students, even if they are properly guided.

#yikes

Then I said, “Okay, how many students in here are going to go offline because of what I shared with you today?”

Not one hand raised.

Then I asked, “How many students in here are going to rethink how they do stuff online because of what I shared today?”

Almost every single hand went up in the room.

#missionaccomplished

As much as many would like it to happen, the Internet is not going away.  In fact, being active and social online is only going to grow.  Are we educating our kids to understand both the positives and negatives?  And…are we talking from experience or from what we see on TV or read in a newspaper?

I am going to keep doing my best to prepare our kids not only for their future, but for their present.

It reminds of a powerful statement I heard from Gary Stager:

Less Us. More Them

We can’t continue to deny the world we live in.

(If you are interested, here is a google doc I created to work on with others regarding their “Digital Footprint”.  Please feel free to use to work with your staff and your students.)