A #DigCit Groundswell… I Hope!

Dear Teachers,

I gotta admit that sometimes I feel like a lone voice shouting into the void with this digital citizenship thing I always go on about. I feel like I’ve been that little whack-a-mole person popping up annoyingly to say, “Yoo-hoo, over here – digital citizenship is important, remember? Don’t forget to talk to your kids about it!” for years now. Maybe some of you have experienced this before; you’re super passionate about something and want the world to know why they should care too – but you feel like you’re the only one on the planet with your level of enthusiasm.


But a few things have happened recently in my district that make me think my efforts are starting to pay off. And I have to tell you, that feels pretty good.

Exhibit A: At least two campuses last year kicked off school-wide digital citizenship initiatives (here is a presentation about one school’s year-long plan). And we had a strong emphasis on digital citizenship at this year’s ETSI (our district’s Ed Tech Success Initiative), so I know many other teachers and campuses have a greater awareness about digital citizenship and have created personal and school-wide goals that focus on growing digital citizens.

Exhibit B: A couple of weeks ago, I heard from a teacher in my district who had attended the keynote session I presented at the back-to-school professional development for secondary teachers. In his email he wrote, “I really loved your speech at inservice and I think teaching the kids #digcit is very important!” And as if that one line weren’t enough to fill my bucket for a year or two, he sent me a link to a rap that he and one of his co-workers created:

I have watched it about a gazillion times already, and it still makes me smile every time! (Shoutout to @rareorionscienc – seriously, how fun is that video?!) I am hoping that other schools will be challenged to create something similar and will also get their students involved in creating, too!

Exhibit C. On Friday I heard from another teacher in my district. Kim Durall teaches 7th grade ELA and has been a great proponent of the #digcit cause for quite a while now. She had first connected with an author online:

Screenshot 2018-09-07 at 6.43.29 PM


And then she sent me a DM with some additional info:

Screenshot 2018-09-07 at 8.53.54 PM“DigCit is a state of mind and not a lesson” is a message I’ve been trying to convey for several years now. I often recommend using “#digcit teachable moments” and “#digcit life lessons” – as opposed to a stand-alone lesson or curriculum – as the best way to teach and model what digital citizenship looks like in real life, so I was especially pleased to see that Kim took advantage of that teachable moment to point out how important “tone and relevance” are in digital spaces.

It’s so exciting to me to see these pockets of digital citizenship education continuing to grow and develop! What about YOU? How are your efforts in #DigCit coming along? I’d love to know about what’s working for you; feel free to comment here or reach out to me on Twitter (@nancywtech). Have a great week, everyone!




What Do You Want to Be?

Dear Teachers,

Do you remember being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Although I vaguely remember that question when I was a kid, I’m honestly not sure whether people in my family ever asked me that. It was a given that I would go to college; that was What We Did. But as I try to remember a time when I was encouraged to “be something,” the only memory I have is of my mother and stepfather discouraging me from being  a French major in school. In my mother’s small world, she could never imagine that I would travel, and they both assured me that “people who only speak two languages couldn’t be an interpreter at the United Nations.” As though that would be the only benefit in knowing a second language! (And I’m sure they didn’t see the slightest irony in the fact that they each spoke only one language.)

Anyway. Although I did start out as a French major, I kept coming back to the feeling I had when my kindergarten teacher let me stay at the table finishing up the drawing of my lion, even though it was time to go to circle time. So I decided to be an Early Childhood teacher. So many of us became teachers because of some influential teacher in our lives. How I loved being a preschool teacher! And how exhausting a room full of four-year-olds seems now!

I also wanted to be a mom, so I had a couple of kids and believed that all my preschool background and experiences would provide me with the knowledge and skills I needed to be a Great Mom. (Talk about irony.) How I loved being able to stay home with my kids! But for lots of reasons, it became clear that I wouldn’t stay home with them forever, and I started thinking about going back to work. When Kid #1 went to kindergarten, he had the most awesome librarian ever. I decided maybe that was what I wanted to be, so I went to library school. And I could never have predicted the career path I have had since I took my first job as a middle school librarian.

How I loved being a librarian! I got to know almost every kid in the school, worked with fabulous teachers, and read astonishingly great Young Adult literature. I like to think I was a solid instructional partner, and I clumsily tried to be a technology leader. I am still fairly astounded at how my (then extremely limited) understanding of the power of technology in education led me to my current position as a Digital Learning Specialist. I mean, come on – FOUR positions with this job title in the whole school district, and I managed to snag one of them? What are the odds? I am humbled every day by my great good fortune to have this career in a fabulous school district.

And how I love THIS job! I have learned so much in the past decade-plus – much of which  is about what I wish I’d done differently in the classroom or library. The past few years especially, when I finished up my second Master’s, became a leader in the Digital Citizenship conversation, and was invited to write curriculum for ISTE, have grown me as a professional and as a person more than I would ever have imagined. Most recently, being one of the writers and trainers for the ISTE Certified Educator program has made me reflect even more deeply about what it is I want to be.


One of my smart co-workers describes the ISTE Standards for Educators as “not things to do, but ways to be.” Now when I think about what I want to be, the choice is less about having a particular position or job title, but about how I can apply these standards in what I’m doing in my work with other educators. Because how I love being all the things! As an Empowered Professional, I want to be a Learner, a Leader, and a Citizen. As a Learning Catalyst, I also aspire to be a Collaborator, a Designer, a Facilitator, and an Analyst.  And I want to inspire my students, who are mostly other educators, to Be All the Things as well! So this week, consider how you might:

  • improve your practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning; be a Learner
  • seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning; be a Leader
  • inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world; be a Citizen
  • dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems; be a Collaborator
  • design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability; be a Designer
  • facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students; be a Facilitator
  • understand and use data to drive your instruction and support students in achieving their learning goals; be an Analyst

These things to be are not things that are once-and-done; we never check them off the list and call it complete. Maybe you’ll choose to focus on just one or two standards; maybe you’ll want to do bits and pieces of all of them. However you decide to approach the ISTE Standards, I hope they will help to grow your thinking a bit on what you want to be.

And also remember that wonderful sign I’ve seen in so many schools lately, “In a world where you can be anything, be KIND.” Have a great week!



P.S. Intrigued about the ISTE Standards and how they might impact your learners? Contact me or your favorite Digital Learning Specialist! We’ll talk your ear off about them!

On Digital Citizenship and Free Speech

Dear Teachers,

It’s back to school time, and I was THRILLED to have an opportunity this past Monday to address our secondary teachers on my favorite topic. Back in December, I had been asked to put the event on my calendar, and I had assumed it would be the usual “three rotations, expect 25ish people at each session” kind of thing – and I was pretty excited about sharing my #DigCit message with as many as 75 educators in one day.

But a couple of weeks before the event, I was asked how I’d feel about doing more of a keynote-type presentation. Twice. With about 850 educators at each sitting. Ummm – impressing upon almost 1700 teachers in one day the importance of including digital citizenship in their daily routines? Hello – yes, please! Sign me up for my dream come true, and do it fast before you change your mind!

So I walked into this room Monday morning and thought: Gulp. Well. Ok then.


I got there plenty early and had all kinds of tech problems. (You know what I always say about tech: It’s *supposed* to work.) Our wonderful tech crew worked diligently to switch out devices and test the sound and get the wifi working, and at 8:27 I was ready for my 8:30 start.

And of course there were tech glitches, but I had a very benevolent audience and I managed to laugh my way through the parts that were completely uncooperative. If you were in the audience in the morning, I thank you for your good will. And I’m so gratified that my message seems to have been well-received! Many of our teachers made a #digcitcommit pledge on Twitter or on this Mentimeter, and I’m excited to see where our district goes this year as a result of getting people talking about digital citizenship.

At the end of my first talk, one of the staff members from the event center approached me and said, “That was interesting. Where do trolls fit in to all of that?” That was a question I had never gotten before and certainly not one I had been expecting. So I stammered around a bit and said something like, “Well, you know how I talked about establishing a culture of positive norms – what I’d like to see is that it becomes socially unacceptable to be a troll. Oh, and don’t feed them.” His sidekick eagerly jumped in with, “Yeah, don’t feed the trolls!” The first guy continued and said, “Yeah, but what if they’re just being funny? And what about the 1st Amendment?”

So then it dawned on me: Ok, so HE is probably a troll. <insert eye roll emoji here>

In my talks I mentioned, as I often do, that cultural norms often change over time; where we once had a nation of smokers, it’s now hard to find a restaurant that isn’t smoke-free, and where we once had a nation of litterers, we now mostly all throw our trash in the trash cans where it belongs. Thinking on my feet, I said to the Presumed Troll, “The 1st Amendment prevents you from the government throwing you in jail for saying something it doesn’t like. It doesn’t protect you from the consequences of what you might say. Freedom of speech is not a license to be a jerk.” Or words to that effect. In my rosy-eyed view of the world, I like to think that we can create an online culture where it just isn’t acceptable to troll people, for fun or otherwise.

The very next day on my way to work, I heard this NPR story about how Alex Jones is crying censorship over tech companies booting him off their platforms. Twitter does seem to be rather capricious in what it deems offensive content, but it has got me thinking about what censorship really is, and what role censorship might play – or SHOULD play? – in cleaning up the often messy, insulting, and even dangerous arena of online forums and commenting.

Tim Wu, in his New York Times Op-Ed from last November “How Twitter Killed the First Amendment,” writes that in today’s world, we should be less concerned with censorship as governmental suppression of speech, and VERY attuned to the fact that “the world’s most sophisticated censors, including Russia and China, have spent a decade pioneering tools and techniques that are better suited to the internet age.” Obfuscation, disinformation, and dissembling are far more effective forms of controlling a populace. If that doesn’t reinforce to everyone the absolute necessity of media literacy and critical thinking, I don’t know what will. I strongly encourage you to check out the websites of media literacy experts like Julie N. Smith, Renee Hobbs, and Michelle Ciulla Lipkin for some excellent resources. Media Literacy Week is November 5-9, 2018 – but I would implore you, as I do with digital citizenship, to make media literacy a part of ALL of your teaching.

Age-old adages are repeated because they have a lot of truth in them: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Just because you CAN say or do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. You catch more flies with honey. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. I like to think that those messages alone would be enough to teach our kids about how to behave online. But while those age-old words might still be true, they won’t be enough. We must be diligent and persistent in getting our students to fact-check, to look at all sides of an argument or debate, and to recognize propaganda and manipulation tools for what they are.

I know what you’re like, dear teachers, and I know that if anyone can do it, you can. I cling to the belief that  love and goodness – and a lot of fact-checking – will always have the last word. Have a great year!



Growing Digital Citizens as We Grow Ourselves

Dear Teachers,

When teachers hear the term “digital citizenship”  and want to know more about that topic, they often begin with some kind of interest in addressing cyberbullying. Cyberbullying and other risks of the Internet – computer viruses, identity theft, phishing, etc. – are legitimate concerns, of course, and our students certainly need to be aware of these risks. For too long, though, classrooms across the country have been immersed in a digital citizenship narrative that is based only in fear and warnings. Digital citizenship is about so much more than just “not cyberbullying” or “not talking to strangers” or “being nice online.” Although those are certainly components of the topic, there is so much more to digital citizenship. Teachers who focus only on the “don’ts” of online behavior miss a host of opportunities for their students to claim their full rights – and responsibilities – of true digital citizenship.

Teachers are on a spectrum when it comes to digital citizenship instruction. Many teachers are still doing nothing at all to address digital citizenship – they have the “shut it down, lock it up” mentality. Perhaps they believe that if they don’t use social media in their classrooms or allow the students to bring in devices from home, then it’s not in their purview or responsibility to talk about digital citizenship. And with all that teachers have to do these days who can blame them for not wanting to do “one more thing”?

[click image to see infographic]
Moving along the spectrum of digital citizenship instruction, a common first step in addressing digital citizenship is often to host a school-wide “Digital Citizenship Day” or “No Cyberbullying!” week. These one-shot efforts are usually very well-intentioned and perhaps even get some good short-term behavior from students. Certainly better than doing nothing at all, these event-based digital citizenship efforts may allow teachers to feel as though they can check digital citizenship off a list; if, several months later, a student makes an egregious error on social media, the teacher can respond, “We told you about this at that assembly last fall.”

Once a teacher or a school decides to address digital citizenship in a more systematic way, they may decide to use pre-packaged lesson plans, such as the excellent materials by Common Sense Media. Maybe the librarian shows these videos in library lessons; maybe it’s the school counselor who does so, or a teacher who intends to do the lesson as an “extra.” A first foray into “teaching digital citizenship” often involves a stand-alone curriculum of some kind. These lessons give teachers a springboard for discussion in the future, but students typically do not absorb concepts of any subject when they are presented in isolation. Digital citizenship is in many ways like sex education: everybody hopes that someone else will do a really good job explaining it – and they hope that the kids “get it” with one explanation. This is unrealistic for so many reasons, and one that teachers would understand as preposterous if applied to any content area concept.

Teachers who are paying attention start to realize that the stand-alone, one-shot efforts they have been using to teach digital citizenship might not be the most effective method, and move along that spectrum of digital citizenship instruction. As years go by, more students have more access to devices or might be requesting more opportunities to use social media in the classroom. Teachers often evolve in their thinking to understand that while the specially designated days or weeks or the stand-alone lessons might be good in the short term – and are certainly much better than doing nothing at all – students need more than a very occasional lesson in order to fully understand and assimilate the many facets of good digital citizenship.

In order to truly learn digital citizenship, students have to DO it. They need many conversations over a lifetime about the importance of empathy. They need to be fully engaged in working with the teacher to set the class norms for digital behavior. Jason Ohler, a pioneer of the digital citizenship movement, is fond of saying that students who are given an opportunity to frame the system are much less likely to game the system. Teachers who involve even young students in the process of positive norm-setting from an early age – on a regular, natural, authentic basis – will normalize positive behavior online, rather than focusing only on the potential dangers (which students are likely to tune out anyway). Students need daily authentic experiences where the teachers both tacitly and explicitly weave a digital citizenship lesson into what the students are doing anyway. Layering digital citizenship into what teachers are doing in their classrooms anyway can make the thought of “doing one more thing” somewhat less overwhelming.

ISTE’s and Metiri’s (2017) new way of looking at the student Digital Citizen standard involves encouraging students to develop a great digital self, to be an effective interactor, and to be proactive agents who use the powers of social media for social good. Looked at in this light (which, by the way, is rooted in all the ISTE standards’ Digital Citizen indicators), it might be easier for teachers to see how these elements might be woven into the fabric of what they are doing in their classrooms. A Digital Self can be promoted every time an eportfolio is mentioned; the teacher could say one extra sentence about “making a good digital first impression.” Additionally, a digital self is rooted in the development of the empathy that is so crucial to the digital citizenship conversation.

Sameer Hinduja, a Twitter friend of mine whom I respect very much, says that students should be regularly involved in conversations about morals, ethics, empathy, and resilience. The first three, he says, should aim to create students with “sensitive hearts,” while the last helps students face and deal with the inevitable conflicts that they will face their entire lives, both online and off. This corresponds to Ohler’s (2017) admonitions to introduce character education that address the needs of digital youth. Incorporating character education in relation to technology and device use within a community context – rather than implying that students’ “real” digital lives can happen only outside school – will help develop each student’s digital self in a positive way.

The Digital Interactor develops when students – even young ones – post and respond to the class social media account or respond to another student’s blog post. It takes very little time in a teacher’s day to remind students of the class norms they’ve established for interacting online, but every sentence or phrase that teachers say becomes  a micro digital citizenship lesson. With young students, this might simply involve the teacher complimenting students on their digital communication or the basic courtesy that they use when accessing the class social media account. For older students it could be a discussion about potentially different cultural norms prior to the students engaging in a video conference with a class from another country. If students DON’T interact appropriately, the teacher can use that behavior as a teachable moment and an opportunity to engage students in conversation about more acceptable alternatives, rather than just being reactive and cutting students off from future opportunities.  

Students of any age can be challenged to solve social problems of many types, using social media and crowdsourced suggestions to be Digital Agents for good in the world. Teachers who use project- or problem- based learning experiences in their classroom have a natural avenue to talk about students’ agency and the power of the Internet to help people accomplish amazing things. Connecting students to their passions and encouraging them to claim a social justice issue that is important to them supports their agency – and will very likely change the world. Additionally, teachers who help students to understand the implications of their social media use and bridge the gaps in their knowledge can help to level the playing field for students who might not have tech-savvy role models at home (Casa-Todd, 2017).

These three pillars – self, interactor, and agent – create a much more positive framework for addressing digital citizenship. Instead of a narrative of avoidance, fear and risk, imagine what might happen if every teacher in every classroom every day focused the digital citizenship message on opportunity and empowerment, not as “extra” thing but as a natural part of the thing. Imagine what might happen if every student heard these lessons about digital citizenship – not only about “being a good person” both online and off, but also about the duties and obligations of citizenship – every single day throughout the course of their school career! We need to show students what to do, not just continually tell them what not to do. We might have to get a little sneaky about digital citizenship, making it such a seamless part of our classroom that it is as ubiquitous as the air around us. Breathing in that message over and over again, as part of the natural context of what is happening in the classroom anyway, is what will mold our students into the digital citizens that we hope they become.

There is room in this conversation about digital citizenship for everyone, but many voices are currently missing or underrepresented: people of color, parents of all backgrounds, administrators, and especially the students themselves. All are digital citizens! Student voice is an incredibly important and powerful one, and unfortunately is often ignored. Teachers need to listen to students about their experiences online, ask questions, and use student’s knowledge of the mechanics of social media tools. Teachers have much to learn from students – and teachers have the maturity and life experience that students need to guide them in mentoring relationships in digital spaces. Educators also need to engage parents in discussions about digital citizenship on a regular basis, too, opening the door to conversations about their values and expectations for their child’s device use. Parents, too, are on a spectrum regarding their understanding of digital citizenship. They often have many questions about how to help their children use devices appropriately, and they need to be invited to participate in discussions and to join teachers on their digital citizenship journeys.

Few people can be considered true “experts” on the topic of digital citizenship, as it is such an evolving and far-reaching topic. The journey to fully understanding digital citizenship is not a linear one, and in today’s society touches literally everything that a student might be involved in. It is often uncomfortable and scary to change one’s teaching methods to include anything new or different. But if every teacher in every classroom were to mention a concept of digital citizenship just one time every day, that would make a lifetime of difference for our students – and the world.




Dear Teachers,

Confession time: I have a teensy little iPhone addiction problem. There is something about that screen that calls my name all day (and sometimes in the middle of the night). Whether it’s quickly scanning Twitter, seeing how hot it’s going to be today, checking email, or playing a couple of dumb games, I often have a hard time ignoring my screen. I’ve played one Sudoku game hundreds of times now, always selecting the “Medium” difficulty level. And I challenge myself not to make any wrong guesses: to not make too many assumptions about what the number might be. So often, I don’t have complete information, and I make the wrong assumption, leading to a (gasp!) red number in the square, which indicates it’s womp-womp wrong.

And I do that in real life too. I make a lot of assumptions based on incomplete information. That happened to me again this past week. A set of circumstances led me to believe that something was one way, and I began to get “in a snit” (as my mother would say) about it. And then one conversation completely turned my prior assumptions upside down.

It reminded me of one of my favorite TED Talks, On Being Wrong. The speaker, Kathryn Schulz, says that feeling of being wrong feels exactly like the feeling of being right: it’s only when you realize you’re wrong that it feels icky. She says that most of the time, we have “error blindness” – meaning that we don’t have internal cues to tell us when we’re wrong about something. It takes having another conversation, or eavesdropping on someone else’s perspective, or getting some other missing piece of the story before we can say, “Oh… I didn’t know that. That changes everything.” Maybe it doesn’t exactly change “everything,” but with a little luck, at the very least it might change us. (And when I say “us,” in this case I actually mean “me.”)  Even a small extra piece of information often catalyzes my empathy, and I can look at something in a completely different way. I’m happy that this past week, one conversation did that for me.

But we have to be willing and able to add the new information to our mental models, and be self-aware enough to maybe change what we think. We humans seem to be awfully heavy these days on the moral certitude and righteous indignation. I get kinda tired of it, honestly – except when I’m the one doing it, I guess.

In the TED talk, Schulz said that she once interviewed Ira Glass, the producer of NPR’s “This American Life.” She said she had noticed a trend in his podcasts, that the show was all about people who ended up being wrong about something. Ira confirmed that that is often a theme. “I thought this one thing was gonna happen, and something else happened instead” makes a good story, it turns out. I thought I’d be a stay-home mom and be celebrating 33 years of marriage this year, but something else happened instead. I thought I’d go to the grocery store last weekend, but something else happened instead (the ER visit is a whole other blog post). This week, I thought I needed to be mad at someone, but something else happened instead.

At the 2017 ISTE conference in San Antonio, Jennie Magiera urged teachers to consider untold stories over a single story. We all create narratives for ourselves and others, sometimes intentionally but most often unwittingly. There are always so many more untold stories in a given circumstance than the single story we create for ourselves. I would challenge you this week to examine the stories you might tell yourself about what’s happening in your life, and to maybe look at things a little more deeply. How might saying “but maybe I’m wrong” help you in your relationships? What untold stories might help you change your perspective? Be willing to be humbled by your inaccurate assumptions this week. Turns out, discovering I was wrong wasn’t so bad after all.



The Intersection of Technology and Humanity

Dear Teachers,

One of the things I most love about being a connected educator is getting to know some really smart people who I would likely never meet in real life. I especially love when I see a particularly smart social media post that really makes me stop and think. Recently that post was one from my brilliant first-on-Twitter-and-now-IRL friend Dr. Kristen Mattson:

Screenshot 2018-07-13 at 3.37.40 PM

I have thought and written about how the “#digcit conversation” has evolved over time, and the process many of us go through when we first start thinking about the term. When I first became aware of the concept many years ago, the focus (at least for me) WAS on Internet safety and preventing cyberbullying. A lot of people I know start their journey into a deeper understanding of digital citizenship in just that way. (I’ve described a typical evolution at this infographic.)

The part of Dr. Mattson’s tweet above that has grabbed me and won’t let me go is “…wrestle with the important ethical questions at the intersection of technology and humanity.” That is some beautiful language right there, and it begs the question: what ARE some of those ethical questions at the intersection of technology and humanity? That is what I have been pondering the past several days. I’ve come up with three major ones for this blog post; more may be coming as I continue to think about this important question.

  1. Many adults seem to lament that “kids these days don’t know how to have a real relationship,” but I would submit that informed and empathetic digital citizens are all about relationships. I’ve seen first hand how the digital relationships that we create can often be just as rich and satisfying as ones cultivated through more traditional means, and for our students, there is often not a line between digital and “real life.” Because for them, digital IS real-life. At the same time, I have observed no small number of people who scroll through their phones absent-mindedly even though actual people are right in front of them, longing for some conversation and connection. Talk to your students about the ways that the digital world can both unite and divide us. Also, we could use a lot more civility in many of our online spaces, so while you’re at it – please mentor your students in how to disagree without being disagreeable.
  2. Informed and empathetic digital citizens develop “digital soft skills” along with the technical skills they need when they go online. I love this blog post by Dr. Josie Ahlquist, where she discusses some soft skills that every incoming college freshman needs. As someone who admits to a HUGE problem with digital focus (my team teases me relentlessly about the number of tabs I have open at any given time), I try to imagine what it would be like to be a NINE YEAR OLD and have to manage the amount of distraction that came my way every day! Kids that age have always been impulsive. They’ve always wanted to look at naughty pictures. They’ve always been bad at anticipating consequences of their actions. We need to talk to our students about online decision-making, digital focus, and the necessity of empathy, just as we would talk to them about cutting in line, scribbling on someone else’s paper, or blurting out inappropriate comments. Sometimes teachers forget the value of a good conversation if the topic happens to involve technology.
  3. Informed digital citizens fact-check EVERYTHING. In today’s era of “fake news,” indiscriminate forwards of urban legends, and easily manipulated images and videos, it is crucial to the survival of our democracy that students understand how information – and misinformation – is disseminated. All of us must know how to scrupulously fact-check, carefully examine our own filter bubbles and possible confirmation bias, and commit to careful and honest reflection about the quality of our own posts.

leeann tweet

And this doesn’t even begin to address much brainier ethical considerations that technology provides: artificial intelligence, 24/7 surveillance, cyber security, preventing identity theft, and on and on. What are your thoughts? Where do you see “ ethical questions at the intersection of technology and humanity”? I am still pondering this meaty question, and I think it behooves all of us digital citizens to do the same.




For further reading:

The Many Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies – Scientific American, 3.13.15

Tech’s Ethical Dark Side: Harvard, Stanford and Others Want to Address It – New York Times, 2.12.18


It’s Time to #DigCitCommit

Dear Teachers,

The ISTE 2018 conference is now a fading memory. It’s always such a great experience to connect with other like-minded educators, overwhelming as it is. (Read about ISTE 2018 by the numbers here.) As you might expect, I spent no small amount of time talking #digcit with my nerdy friends from far and wide. We were all so excited that Richard Culatta, ISTE CEO, specifically called out the importance for all educators to address digital citizenship. He spent about 20 minutes in his pre-opening-keynote address urging all of us to commit to teaching our students to build more positive online communities, to engage in online disagreements respectfully, to work to change public policy, and to critically assess the validity of online resources. That is a tall order!

But as I always say, it doesn’t all have to happen at once; it just takes all of us on the same page, actively working toward these goals. My mantra is “Every Teacher, Every Classroom, Every Day” – meaning that if every teacher in every school across America and the world would make just one reference a day to some aspect of digital citizenship, we could make significant positive changes to our online spaces. But I’ve also been thinking lately that digital citizenship efforts are a lot like my yoga practice: even though I *intend* to go to yoga class 5 days a week, if I go even ONCE a week, I feel better. So if you miss an opportunity to preach a good word for #digcit one day – don’t give up and just go back to your old habits! This week maybe you’ll say just one thing; next week perhaps it will be two or three. The more you do it, the easier and more natural it will feel (also like yoga), and saying SOMETHING about #digcit is better than saying nothing at all! The point is: COMMIT to making a concerted effort to encourage your students to have the best possible citizenship, both online and in their face-to-face interactions. For most of our students, there is not a hard line between digital and real life.

digcitcommit tweets

I was so gratified to see how the digcit conversation continues to expand. The DigCitPLN meeting had a whopping *31* people in attendance! I loved hearing how important #digcit is to each person who attended the meeting. My tenure as co-chair of ISTE’s DigCitPLN is over, and I’m pleased to be turning it over to the exceedingly brilliant and competent Lauren Villaluz and Vanessa Monterosa. I can’t wait to see how the concept of digital citizenship continues to evolve over the next year!

If you’re looking for #digcit resources to help you get started, you might start with #ISTE18 – My Top Takeaways by Gail Desler, the winner of the DigCitPLN’s inaugural PLN award. And check out my growing, curated list of all things #DigCit at my Cultivating a #DigCit State of Mind site.

What will YOU commit to doing this year to grow great digital citizens in your classroom? We can’t continue to NOT act on this: the future of democracy truly depends on our students’ citizenship – digital and otherwise.



What Are You Reading?

Dear Teachers,

As a former librarian (and you know I always say I’m forever a librarian in my heart!), I’m always curious about what people are reading. I’ve been known to start a conversation in airports with strangers who are reading, particularly if that book happens to be one I’ve read. I’ve gotten lots of suggestions over the years for books to try because of books that people might be holding in their hands; I’ve even made a couple of good friends from striking up conversations about books that were read at the pool or in a restaurant.

Recommendations of books are so important; that’s what most good reading teachers do for kids – right? We read constantly so that we can talk about books and motivate kids to read them too. Students are much more likely to read a book that a teacher or peer has recommended. And adults are the same way! While I love to look over the New York Times Best Books list, I’m significantly more inclined to read a book if a friend tells me about it and tells me what they liked about it.

51k2SdxarJLTwo books about digital citizenship come to mind when I think of books that I want others to read! Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership by Jennifer Casa-Todd is the first one. This book is full of examples of kids doing amazing things with social media, and how those kids claim their roles as digital leaders when given the opportunity to do so. In providing these examples and framing the #digcit conversation in a positive light, Casa-Todd gives many specific examples of how schools can provide opportunities for digital leadership.

productimageThe second #digcit book I can’t recommend highly enough is Dr. Kristen Mattson’s Digital Citizenship in Action. Dr. Mattson stresses the importance of modeling & mentoring students in digital spaces, and providing lots of opportunities for students to engage in online spaces. Mattson covers big ideas like the roles that people play in digital communities, the skills that students will need in order to be able to make meaningful contributions on social media, and the importance of providing authentic opportunities for students to participate in online spaces. And she does so in six easy-to-digest chapters that feature real-life examples and lots of encouragement.

Jennifer and Kristen are two of the smartest voices in digital citizenship today, and both books are, in my opinion, required reading if you want to grow your own thinking about what digital citizenship means. I encourage you to add both books to your summer reading list.

And because, as I mentioned above, people are more likely to read books that have been recommended, I’d like to ask you what YOUR recommendations are. One of my contacts at ISTE has asked for educators to write book reviews on Amazon. If you are so inclined, it would be terrific if you could respond to their request:

We’d love to hear what you, our readers, think of our books! Please consider sharing your thoughts with us and the community.

Your feedback helps ISTE create the best possible resources for teaching and learning in the digital age, and we take your feedback seriously. With this in mind, we are reaching out to ask if you would be willing to post a book review on Amazon.com. We welcome honest comments about our product quality so we can continue publishing the kind of books you want to read.

If you need an ebook or print copy of the book for your review, please let us know.

–From the ISTE Books Team, booksDept@iste.org 

Here’s a link to ISTE’s books page, which includes all their current and forthcoming titles: www.iste.org/books. I know there are hundreds of worthy books out there, but if you find one that makes a difference to you and your teaching practice, share your thoughts about it with others who might benefit from your review!

I wish you, dear teachers, a wonderful summer of reading and recharging.





Getting Ready for ETSI 2018!

Dear Teachers,

It’s my favorite time of year again: the time when I plan with my awesome team to develop our district’s annual Ed Tech Success Initiative (ETSI) professional learning experience. Each year, we tweak and modify ETSI, and I have to say, I think each year it gets better and better. I’m proud of the fact that we have a huge waiting list again this year, and I’m excited to help shape the event.

ETSI collage2

Over the course of the past school year, our district has gone 1:1 with Chromebooks, and we are designing ETSI this year to focus on digital citizenship and the pedagogical changes necessary when working in a 1:1 environment. As always, we will focus on ISTE Standards and use the SAMR and TPACK reflection tools as we encourage our educators to think more deeply about their technology integration decisions.

Our essential questions for ETSI 2018 are:

  • How do I become an effective advocate for digital citizenship?
  • How does my pedagogy need to change in a 1:1 environment?
  • How can I leverage technology to truly transform learning experiences for students?
  • What is a “digital citizen” and why is that term important?
  • What do I need to do to ensure that students are empowered digital learners?

Once again, we are putting together the kind of PD that I would like to participate in! No sit and get allowed – there is a lot of conversation and hands-on activities planned as we try to model the kinds of experiences we want our teachers to be facilitating in their classrooms. I can’t wait to see how ETSI 2018 impacts our classrooms and learners! I’ll keep you posted.



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.