Accurate Reflections

Dear Teachers,

Have you seen the recent reports about how selfies distort your face and make your nose look bigger? “Researchers now are cautioning that patients interested in cosmetic procedures should not turn to self-photographs as guidance when considering making changes to their faces,” says a recent CNN article. Even before selfies, I noticed a tendency in almost everyone I know to look at a photo and zoom in to identify our own flaws to the exclusion of anything positive in the frame. (My right eye, seriously, IS a lot squintier than my left, by the way.) And so there is now some evidence to suggest that a look at our own selfie pictures is creating even more opportunities for self-criticism, leading more of us to undergo elective SURGERY. Crazy, right?


I’ve been reading lately about the value of reflecting to help us improve our teaching practice, and I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the distorted selfie pictures and the way my own reflecting usually goes. I am all for productive reflection. For example, I bet that if you are a secondary teacher, you usually feel like the 5th period’s lesson is significantly better than the one you tried in 1st period. That’s because you thought about what could have gone better, realized where and how you needed to be more clear, and made adjustments based on those reflections. A few days ago, I was tweaking a presentation just minutes before I was about to begin it. The teacher near me observed what I was doing and said, “Yep, that’s being a teacher.” I guess most educators are just built that way. Productive reflection that helps us improve our lesson delivery is a good thing, of course.

But sometimes I feel like my self-reflection goes too far, or at least it goes too far in the wrong direction. I find myself reflecting about things I am long past being able to control or change. You may know what I’m talking about: that kid I wish I’d been a little nicer to. The parent conference from early in my career where I surely offended someone with my know-it-all suggestions. A horrifying memory of the way I spoke to a co-worker. The endless litany of the ways I screwed up as a mother, and the crushing knowledge that there are no do-overs.

It’s like there is a very accomplished chorus of Mean Girls in my head, eager to point out to me every shortcoming and flaw I’ve ever had and every regrettable thing I’ve ever said or done. And I not only listen to them, I seem to invite them in and then turn up the volume. If only I hadn’t been so strict and controlling. If only I had listened more. If only I had acted with just a little more love & compassion. If only I had been less harsh and more helpful; less critical and more compassionate.  If only…if only…if only…

“You can be forgiven for not being perfect” is something I read a few weeks ago, and I’ve been trying to remember to say this to myself when my brain goes on autopilot to all the memories I harbor where I wish I’d behaved differently. I’m often much quicker to forgive others – or to encourage others to forgive themselves – than I am to forgive my own flaws.

I’m guessing that you’d be surprised at how routinely I torture myself with these “wish I had” and “should have done” memories. I’m assuming that I don’t look nearly as obsessive and flawed from the outside. So I gotta wonder, do any of you do this, too? Like me, are your selfie memories maybe a little distorted?  Because just so you know, from my perspective, you all look great. From my vantage point, your nose looks just fine, and you are beautiful.





How We Grow into a #DigCitStateofMind

Dear Teachers,

I’ve been thinking, as I so often do, about how my thinking about Digital Citizenship has evolved over time. I’ve noticed some patterns and similarities in the way that I and many other educators have grown in our understanding.

So I cooked up this infographic to try to to describe what I’ve observed. I am hoping it might encourage educators and education stakeholders to grow into more sophisticated ways of thinking about digital citizenship.



[Click image to open infographic in a new window.]

How does this description of stages compare to what you’ve observed? I would love your thoughts about your experiences. Please comment, if you like, to help me improve this infographic.





Adding to My Nerdiness…

Dear Teachers,

I was invited to be a guest on Region 10’s Digital Radio Learning podcast. Let my 15 minutes of fame commence!
Region10podcastimagePhoto credit: Region 10 Digital Learning Radio.
Podcast available at at 

A quick recap of what we discussed:

  • The terrific Master of Education in Digital Learning and Leading program at Lamar University, and the #COVA model which you can read about here and here.
  • How #COVA led me to create CLICK, a website of student-created technology tips (my baby, and the project that got me to the Google Innovator Academy in London)
  • How CLICK relates to digital citizenship
  • My additional thoughts on digital citizenship, including a shoutout to ISTE’s new three-pronged framework that empowers digital learners to develop as Digital Self, Interactor, and Agent

Finally, if you really haven’t gotten enough of me and that #digcit thing, you can check out the ISTE Professional Learning Series webinar that I did with my buddy Julie Paddock recently – the title was Digital Empowerment: Everyone as a Digital Leader.

Hope to see you at TCEA! You could visit my poster session on Cultivating a #DigCit State of Mind on Monday and also drop by our DigCit Meetup on Thursday!



#DigCit Nerd Heaven!

Dear Teachers,

It is dreary out as I write this: cold, cloudy, and threatening rain. The perfect day to stay indoors in front of a fire, with a blankie, a good book, and cup of something hot. Which is what I had every intention of doing, until I started thinking about all the cool things coming up in my little corner of the Digital Citizenship world. I tell you, it takes somebody really nerdy to feel so ENERGIZED about this topic. What is that old saying again? “It’s better to keep quiet and have everyone think you’re a #digcit nerd than to write a blog post and remove all doubt”? Or something like that…

Anyway, I know there are a few of you out there who share my passion for this topic and understand its importance. My district is in the process of going one-to-one with Chromebooks, and I know that it is non-negotiable that we get all teachers on board understanding digital citizenship principles and how to put those principles into practice. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities coming up for those who are just beginning to get curious and for those who are already passionate about the topic like I am.

If you are an ISTE member, one thing you can do between now and January 26 is to vote for a proposal that Julie Paddock and I have submitted to the first-ever People’s Choice session selection. We were so appreciative of the positive feedback we received at our session last year, and as PLN leaders, she and I feel that we definitely have something to contribute on this topic. This year, our proposed session is titled Digital Empowerment: Everyone as a Digital Leader. Thanks in advance if you could head over to that link and give our session a quick click!

The next event on the #digcit lineup is the @DigCitPLN’s monthly Twitter chat. The chat will happen on January 18 at 6pm PT/ 8pm CT/ 9pm ET, and this month’s topic is “Building a Positive School Culture Through Community Initiatives and Honest Conversations,” led by Kevin Rokuskie and friends. I hope you can tune in and join us.

At the end of the month, Julie Paddock and I will deliver a webinar through ISTE’s Professional Learning series. Our topic will be a preview of what we hope to present at ISTE in June. We hope you will register and tune in on Wednesday January 31 at 4pm PT/ 6pm CT/ 7pm ET. We’ll have some good tips for you on Digital Empowerment and ways to become a digital leader. No matter where you are on your #digcit journey, we hope you’ll find something useful to take away (and it’s only a half hour long).


Right after our webinar, there’s a couple of things I’m REALLY excited about: two events at the annual TCEA convention in Austin. First, I’ll be doing a poster session on “Cultivating a #DigCit State of Mind” on Monday, February 5th from 3:00-5:00 pm. I’ll have lots of ideas and suggestions for how you can weave digital citizenship into what you’re already doing, and you’ll have a chance to contribute to a collection of resources, too! Then on Thursday, February 8, there will be a first-ever #DigCit Meetup at 4:45 in Room 11AB. This will be a chance to meet other like-minded teachers and discuss ways to move the #digcit conversation forward. Click here to let me know what you’d be interested in seeing at the #DigCit Meetup – I’m so looking forward to getting to know some of my fellow nerds!


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, 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.



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 or on Twitter. Jennifer ( 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 ( 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!

Screenshot 2017-10-14 at 11.12.00 AM.png

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?



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 to multiple versions of 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.


Screenshot 2017-09-22 at 3.58.10 PM

[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.




International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). Standards for students. Retrieved from