Digital Citizenship for ALL Students!

This blog post has also been published on the Digital Equity Medium page.

Dear Teachers,

As a district-level Instructional Technology Specialist, I have the opportunity to travel to many campuses in my school district. I am a little partial to the schools where the staff closely reflects the makeup of its students. The math department at one of my favorite schools looks like this.

Photo by Yamicii Wilson (@ElectrifyingEdu). Used with permission.

I know (and love) many of these teachers personally, and this picture makes my heart happy for lots of reasons. Mostly I think how lucky the students are at that school to be able to see their potential future selves as a “math person” or a “science person” — because all of the curricular teams at this campus look a lot like this. I know that faculties like this do not get created and nurtured by accident; they happen because someone sets out with intention to make them happen. I’m thankful for principals who work to intentionally build strong — and diverse — teams.

There are four of us in my school district who have my job title, and I so appreciate that I get to work closely with amazing people who don’t look like me. (My coworkers joke that we have diversity because I am old, which isn’t quite as funny to me as it seems to be to them).

I have learned so much from them, not only about technology and teaching and collaboration, but also about inclusivity and listening. My co-workers relate their lived experience — as I share mine — and because I try to listen, I believe I have become a lot more thoughtful and intentional in my relationships and in my profession. I have worked intentionally to build my PLN in the past several years to ensure that I am following people whose perspectives and experiences might be very different from mine. Hearing the experiences and opinions of educators who work in different environments (rural, urban, global) has helped me to think more deeply about issues that are important to me. My PLN is full of educators and other professionals who care about digital citizenship and want digital spaces to be more positive places for students. I’m thankful for my cool team members and for technology that allows me to connect to so many other amazing educators.

I’ve been kind of obsessed with the topic of digital citizenship for several years now, and I feel privileged to serve as the co-chair of ISTE’s Digital Citizenship PLN (@DigCitPLN) for 2017–2018. So as much as I have tried to cultivate a PLN with varying perspectives, it was a little startling to see at the face-to-face PLN meeting in June last year at the ISTE conference in San Antonio how… well, monochromatic the attendees were. One of my very heartfelt goals for the @DigCitPLN is that it become a lot more like that math department I mentioned above. I would like to very sincerely and humbly ask that any readers of this post who have not previously felt welcomed or invited to participate in the #digcit conversation to consider adding your voice to the mix. Our new website is http://bit.ly/digcitpln, and among the ways that you can participate are:

  • join one of our interest groups
  • volunteer to lead a Twitter chat
  • nominate a “Digital Citizenship Champion” — a student or educator who is doing a great job in digital spaces
  • be a guest blogger on our site
  • tell us what you think our PLN needs to do to be more fully inclusive

I want the @DigCitPLN to better represent ALL educators so that ALL students will have the very best role models for digital citizenship. I want students to think about their potential future selves not only as math or science professionals, but also as outstanding digital citizens. I hope you’ll join the ever-growing community of educators who are committed to showing students how to be the very best citizens — digital and otherwise.

Fondly,

Nancy

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Digital Citizenship Lessons in Two Minutes or Less

Dear Teachers,

I had the opportunity to be involved with Jennifer Casa-Todd and DOCTOR Sarah Thomas on a recent EduMatch tweet ‘n’ talk. If you’re not familiar with EduMatch, check it out at http://www.edumatch.org/ or on Twitter. Jennifer (http://jcasatodd.com/) is a librarian and literacy expert extraordinaire, and she has written a wonderful book titled Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership. Sarah (https://www.sarahjanethomas.com/) is a learner, a leader, and a connector. Every day I consider myself beyond fortunate to have even the loosest of associations with professionals like these two brilliant women.

In the #digcit community, most of us are working to move the narrative of kids’ technology use to one of positive norms, focusing on the opportunities inherent in social media rather than just the dangers. We often talk about how digital citizenship is not a curriculum or program and that digital citizenship should just be woven in to the fabric of what you’re doing anyway. Many people still think that means that you have to set aside time during your week for a discrete lesson on “How You Should Behave Online.” I submit that you can do a pretty good job teaching digital citizenship in just a couple of minutes per day or per class period. My mantra about how digital citizenship should be taught is “Every Teacher, Every Classroom, Every Day” – think how a lifetime of messages like these from teachers might shape a student’s online behavior:

I saw something on Twitter last night that made me really mad. I’m glad I put my phone down and thought about my response for a minute. Last week I did that and I ended up not responding at all, but last night I thought it was important to supply a different point of view.

I just noticed what a kind thing you did for your classmate. Do you mind if I share that on our class Twitter account?

What’s the most positive thing you’ve seen/posted on social media lately? 

I was explaining to my mom last night how important it is to always read the privacy policies when you sign up on a new website. And then I wondered if that was something my students do. So before we start class, I just want to give you an example of what you agree to when you click that “Sign up” button.

Here is something I saw on my Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat this morning that really made me aware of the good in the world.

You will not believe what I LEARNED from my PLN last night!

Before we open up this online discussion, I want you to take a minute and think to yourself what we’ve discussed about school talk vs. peer talk, and remind yourself about what our posts should look like. 

Your exit ticket on Friday will be to explain one thing you learned on social media this week, so be on the lookout – and don’t forget to fact-check!

How will you make the world a better place today?

It really doesn’t take a huge amount time to make responsible and proactive digital citizenship the normative, expected behavior in your classroom or school. And get your students involved in setting those norms!

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Let’s all practice SHOWING students what great digital citizens do, and let’s start by giving them bite-size examples, every day. And when kids show US what great digital citizenship looks like, we need to celebrate that too – and learn from them when we can! What are your thoughts? Do you have other ideas on two-minute digital citizenship?

Fondly,

Nancy

How I Met Every ISTE Student Standard

Dear Teachers,

“Please remember – This assignment is unique to you, your circumstances, and your organization so you need to keep in mind who your audience is, why and how they will use this information, and what impact you are looking to make.”

Thus began the instructions on every single assignment I’ve completed in the past year and a half for the master’s degree I’m about to finish. I have been thinking about how powerful those words have been. Just yesterday, I was talking with my co-workers about how some teachers are still so reluctant to allow their students choice and voice in the way they complete assignments, and I was reminded of how empowering it has been to be able to think about an assignment and formulate my response in the way that made the most sense. Sometimes that was a formal paper or a report; more often, it was a blog post, an infographic, or a video – or some combination of tools. Why, my colleagues and I wondered yesterday, are some teachers still reluctant to give students a choice in how they demonstrate their learning? If the learning is really the significant thing, then we should be challenging all students to be Creative Communicators, with ISTE (2016) Student Standard  6a as our guide: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.

Back in February 2016, I started this journey in the Digital Learning and Leading master’s program at Lamar University, which uses the COVA model for its class design. COVA is an acronym that stands for Choice, Ownership, and Voice in Authentic assignments. This was not a “turn in a 15 page paper and I’ll grade it and hand it back to you” kind of degree plan! Almost every class was designed so that we could take the required learning and apply it to our own personalized innovation plan, and I see now how “personalized learning” could really happen in a classroom because of what I’ve experienced. I also see how I was able to meet every single ISTE Student Standard in multiple ways.

My first class in the DLL program was about principles of technology integration and developing a professional learning network. I felt very confident in that class, since teaching others about appropriate technology integration is a major component of my job. I wrote a manifesto about teaching. Although my professional learning network has grown considerably over the past year and a half, I started with a reasonably good list that I compiled here. I have become even more of a Global Collaborator and continue to use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds (ISTE Student Standard 7a).

As a good Digital Citizen (ISTE Student Standard 2), I began early in the program to cultivate and manage my digital identity and reputation. An early assignment was a Sway about my strengths in digital learning and leading. I also began the creation of my ePortfolio, which has had several iterations over the course of fifteen months, from nancywtech.blogspot.com to multiple versions of nancywtech.com. Later on in the program, I was enrolled in the class titled “Digital Citizenship,” and I solidified my understanding of Student Standard 2, as I reviewed the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world.

 

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[Click to see my Sutori]

Within the first few courses in the DLL program, I began to formulate my plans for my plot to take over the world innovation project, which I referred to at the time as “Improving Digital Literacy through Student Created Content,” or IDLTSCC – now with the significantly easier-to-say name of CLICK.  I posted my 50,000 foot plan of my original goals for CLICK on what was my blog at that time, and I completed my first literature review of the topic. As I look back over the year and a half, I’m somewhat pleased to see that I have been able to iterate on my original plan even though the main goal of CLICK is the same as it’s always been. And re-reading my original plan, I can see that some of the same ideas and concerns that I had early on continue to challenge me. Through my innovation plan, I have practiced and wrestled with all the indicators of ISTE Student Standard 4: Innovative Designer as I attempted to solve the problem of a lack of digital literacy skills by creating a new, useful or imaginative solution.

Over the next few courses, I learned to define and commit to a “WHY,” to accomplish disruptive innovation, to become an influencer, and to facilitate organizational change. I learned more about applying design thinking to education and further developed my learning philosophy. I created lots of acronyms: a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (the BHAG) and a Wildly Important Goal (the WIG) for IDLTSCC, and I pulled everything together in this infographic. As I learned about all of these unfamiliar terms and concepts, and as I synthesized a host of information about my innovation plan into additional literature reviews, I became an Empowered Learner as I took an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in my learning goals (ISTE Student Standard 1) and a Knowledge Constructor as I used digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for [myself] and others (ISTE Student Standard 3). 

Professional Learning in technology integration is a big part of my job, so I appreciated having learned more about the backward design process as I created my first online course. A longtime member of Learning Forward, I felt that I already knew a lot about the principles of adult learning and what makes for effective professional learning, but I increased my understanding about creating meaningful professional learning experiences. ISTE Student Standard 5 – Computational Thinker? Check! In order to create an online class, I definitely had to break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models.

At every turn in the program, I was encouraged to articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes – in other words, to meet ISTE Student Standard 1a. I am an Empowered Learner! I so appreciate having had the opportunity to experience the Student Standards from the learner’s perspective, and I feel that I am a better educator now for having done so.

I hope that you, too, will have an opportunity to experience such authentic learning, and that you will provide similar opportunities for your students.

Fondly,

Nancy

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International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). Standards for students. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students

CLICK: The First Year

Dear Teachers,

My plot to take over the world innovation project, CLICK, is a website of student-created technology tips, and honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of the progress it’s made over the past year. I started with just a glimmer of wanting to do “something” about what I saw as tremendous gaps in digital literacy skills, particularly in many of our teachers. I would literally wake up in the middle of the night worrying about kids who don’t have a lot of technology or technology role models in their homes, who might spend a year or more with teachers who don’t teach digital skills. I would hear from teachers lamenting the fact that many of their high school students did not know how to format a document or log in to Google Classroom – or even understand the significance of blue underlined text! At the same time, I knew that there were kids who did fit the stereotype of the “digital native” who seem to be able to just look at a screen and know what to do. How could I put those two types of students in touch with each other? Student-created technology tips definitely seemed like it might provide an answer.

I am one of those weird nerds who actually enjoyed the literature reviews we’ve had to do, because I was researching something I was so genuinely passionate about. I discovered only a couple of other efforts to use student-created artifacts to teach other students (Mathtrain and Next Vista), but none that specifically had technology as the focus. The research also bears out that teachers often overestimate students’ technology abilities, that students in lower socioeconomic groups do not have the same opportunities for using technology for creation purposes, and that the digital divide is growing in many places. I had a poster session at ISTE that was very popular and CLICK was received enthusiastically. CLICK was even mentioned during one of the pre-keynote Ignite speeches. My article about CLICK was recently published on the ISTE blog, and CLICK is featured in Dr. Kristen Mattson’s upcoming book, Digital Citizenship in Action.

In March I learned that CLICK had been accepted as a Google Innovator project, and I was fortunate enough to go to the Google offices in London to learn about applying the design thinking process to move my project along. (One of these days I might even get that credit card paid off…) I also have the support of the Innovator community over the next year – h/t to my mentor Mike Filipetti – for when I have questions or need encouragement.

I’ve always wanted CLICK to become a more student-focused and student-driven project, and the principal at our PBL high school put me in touch with a couple of seniors who were in search of a capstone project. These young men have been amazing advocates for CLICK already. They created graphics and launched a re-branding effort, and are working to hand-code a new searchable website. They came and did a presentation at our district’s annual technology integration professional learning event, and the teachers ate it up. (See reactions on Twitter here, here, here, and here.) These students are also in big demand now for presentations to elementary students – I think younger students seeing “the big kids” promoting CLICK will make a big impact on them.

Biggest lesson learned: teachers and librarians are enthusiastic about the project and its goals, but it is unbelievably difficult for them to find time in their day to carve out time to help their students create content. I am so appreciative of all my librarian friends who have stayed after school to work with students, to the teachers who included content creation as part of an assignment, and to those friends who sincerely wanted to help but just couldn’t swing it – you know who you are; please know how grateful I am to you for helping to get my idea off the ground. I am optimistic for the future and am hopeful that with my new student colleagues, CLICK will explode with popularity this year.

Click to the image below to see the infographic I made detailing CLICK’s first year:

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Do you have any ideas for improving CLICK? You know I’d love to hear them!

Fondly,

Nancy

Reflecting on COVA and Creating Significant Learning Environments

Dear Teachers,

In just a few short weeks I’ll have three additional letters after my name to signify my shiny new  Master of Education degree in Digital Learning and Leading. I have to say it’s been a pretty cool ride. The program all about giving learners COVA – that’s Choice, Ownership and Voice in Authentic assignments. I’ve really loved all that I’ve learned the past year and a half, even though it hasn’t always been easy and it hasn’t always been comfortable. I knew from the first class that I was going to like the program, because from the beginning we had choice and voice in the assignments. It was great to be able to put into practice the things that the Instructional Technology Specialists in my department try to encourage teachers to do with their students.

One of my first assignments was to explain my strengths in digital learning and leading, and I had the freedom to select the way I would present that information (I taught myself how to use Sway with this assignment). The program really models how to make the choice-and-voice assignments work; each class gave me the opportunity to learn a new tool and to use it appropriately. I was able to demonstrate my learning via Biteable, Adobe Spark, Piktochart (I love Piktochart soooo much) and so many more. The tool, of course, was always kind of beside the point; the point was the feeling of ownership a learner gets when selecting her own way of demonstrating her knowledge.

I’m fortunate to be in a leadership position in my district, and I also loved how I could apply my grad school learning directly to my particular situation. Whether it was the class on developing online courses, the one about designing better professional learning, or the one on action research – all of them had a direct effect on something I was working on “in real life.” In a large organization like mine, change happens very slowly, but I feel like my goals for change are at least somewhat aligned with the district’s. That makes even small changes seem much more possible. My district has used the Understanding by Design framework in curriculum design for years, and that prior knowledge predisposed me for success in the DLL program. I had already been conditioned to think about what we want students to learn, and to work backward from there.

Early on during the degree program, we were encouraged to select an innovation project, and the most satisfying accomplishment during the course of the degree, without doubt, has been the progress on that project. I knew that I wanted to do something to address the major gaps in digital literacy that I sometimes see in our district. My project, originally called “Improving Digital Literacy Through Student-Created Content” got off to a good start when I first blogged about my idea just over a year ago. I had many people tell me right from the start that they were interested in and supportive of my idea, and I am so appreciative of that early encouragement. I was passionately committed to my idea and I loved all the coursework that helped me bring it to fruition. The project now has the significantly less tongue-twisty title of CLICK – for Collaborate-Learn-Instruct-Create-Know – and to date has garnered 60 student-created tech tips. CLICK is truly a labor of love for me, and I am so excited to see how it continues to develop over the next year. More importantly, I am excited to see how it impacts student learning – because if it doesn’t do that, what’s the point, right?

While I’ve always tried to allow for participant choice in the professional learning sessions I deliver, I will say that it’s still sometimes a struggle to remember to incorporate principles of COVA. There are some classes, for example, where we just need to convey a certain set of facts to our audience; our Chromebook rollout is an example of that kind of class. My favorite training, though, is to help teachers design authentic technology integration experiences within the context of what they’ll be teaching anyway. The COVA model helps me make those coaching experiences even more meaningful.

creating-significant-learning-enviroments-csle-2-day-workshop-bcit-15-638

Source: https://www.slideshare.net/nethowto/csle-2-day-workshop

I sincerely hope that the time and effort I’ve put into this program have led me to creating more significant learning environments – the kind that help learners of all kinds not just collect the dots, but to meaningfully connect the dots. Keeping students and their learning at the center of my efforts, while acting as a facilitator, coach, and mentor, typically produces good results. When I work with teachers, I always try to start by determining the understanding of my audience and then working from there, and I try to leave lots of time for questions and discussion. My team will be conducting more webinars this year. I’m optimistic that we can continue to create significant learning environments even in a virtual experience.

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Unsolicited email from an attendee at this year’s ETSI – Ed Tech Success Initiative

tweets about ETSI

Tweets about #pisdetsi

 

What are your thoughts, dear teachers, on the kinds of learning that you have experienced with my team this year? Have we provided you with choice? Ownership? Voice? Have you felt the learning was authentic? I’d love to read your comments about how we have or haven’t met your expectations, and what we might do to improve in the future.

Fondly,

Nancy

 

Making a Difference

Dear Teachers,

At our district’s recent Ed Tech Success Initiative, we asked teachers the question, “Why did you even go into teaching in the first place?” and the first answer was, as it so often is, “To make a difference.”

Curran Dee, Chief Kid Officer of DigCitKids, often quotes President Obama’s question, “How are you using technology every day to make a real difference for your community, other kids, and the world?” A classmate recently posted on our discussion board that he’ll be encouraging his students to use the makerspace at his school to really make a difference for the community this year. Another student friend of mine, Olivia van Ledtje, makes a difference by routinely spreading words of hope and encouragement.

Like Curran, my classmate, and Olivia, those of us in the positive digital citizenship movement also want to make a difference. We want the social media world to be different – far less fraught with ugly, demeaning words and more filled with positive words of love and hope. We seek to empower students and others to embrace their potential for doing good in the world.

And what a noble – yet at times seemingly impossible – task that is. I wake up every morning these days discouraged by the news and the divisive and rancorous tone that exists on social media and in the world. It’s probably not surprising that so many people live in a “filter bubble” where they just keep reading the things they already believe in; it’s difficult to hear those loud voices on the other side. I long for a more civilized and peaceful world where everyone’s voice is respectful – and heard. And where hateful voices and opinions are not just silenced, but those hateful hearts are truly changed through dialog and love.

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No one knows what will become of our country and the current civil unrest. There is no politician or pastor who can fix this mess for us. WE are the ones who need to get out there and MAKE A DIFFERENCE. We need to be louder and more explicit than ever in teaching our students to accept others and to listen carefully to opposing points of view. We need to be louder than ever in teaching our students to resist evil in all its forms and to speak up when they see oppression. We need to be as loud as we can possibly be in modeling what it looks like to love and care for others. And we need to be explicit in telling kids that if they think it is okay to view themselves or the group or culture that they come from as better or more worthy or more valuable than any other group, that is not only wrong but immoral.

This is a time when I wish I had better words. I wish I were more eloquent and more powerful in my ability to say what I mean. But I hope you are hearing me anyway, dear teachers, because you are on the front lines out there, and you are the people who can help turn our wonderful, imperfect, divided, beautiful country around. Do it, I beg you; do all the good you can. Make a real difference this year.

Faithfully yours in cockeyed optimism,

Nancy

P.S. Please see this post from the International Literacy Association on ideas to address the recent events in Charlottesville.

 

#DigCitSnaps, Anyone?

Dear Teachers,

This morning as I was meandering through Twitter, I stumbled upon Tara Martin’s post about #booksnaps. I had heard about #booksnaps (and its companion, #gratitudesnaps) but I hadn’t ever taken the time to investigate what that really is. So I watched a couple of Tara’s videos, and because of the way my brain works, I naturally thought: I wonder if we could do something like that with digital citizenship.

I know next to nothing about Snapchat. I’ve had an account for a couple of years, and yes, those filters are fun (I was happy to catch a pic of myself as Wonder Woman!), but I am still figuring out the ins and outs of Snapchat. In one of Tara’s videos, she talked about how she wanted to reach her son and his friends, and how much value there is in annotating books using the Snapchat app. My librarian self thought that was pretty brilliant.

And then I read about #gratitudesnaps. I’m a big fan of gratitude, and I am all for putting as much positive out into the universe as we possibly can. And that’s when I started wondering if we could make #DigCitSnaps become a thing. I’ve written previously about getting sneaky about how we introduce digital citizenship to kids. Might #digcitsnaps be another way to teach concepts that we wish they knew about digital citizenship? Could students use Snapchat to teach each other?

I have a lot to learn about Snapchat, but I can see why kids like it. I followed Tara’s directions and had fun adding text and my Bitmojis to a few images.I’m sure most of you more advanced Snapchat users are snickering about what a dorky mess I am, but hey – we’ve all got to start somewhere, right?

basketball-photocredit       icanhelp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What do you think? Are #DigCitSnaps something that could catch on? Do you have students who might be interested in starting this trend in your school? How else might the #digcit movement capitalize on Tara Martin’s great idea?

I’d love to know if you think this could work!

Fondly,

Nancy