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 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, 

Here’s a link to ISTE’s books page, which includes all their current and forthcoming titles: 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.




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.