Tag Archives: digital citizen

Edutopia’s New Resources on Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship is always a hot topic with both educators and their schools. I have long been critical of the “stranger danger” focus of most digital citizenhsip curricula. This focus has over-exaggerated the risks of online predators and misinformed a generation of children and their parents, often with detrimental effects.

I was so happy to see Edutopia’s updated curriculum and guidelines, What Your Students Really Need to Know about Digital Citizenship, crafted by the esteemed educator Vicki Davis. It focuses on students created robust passwords (that they don’t share with others), not posting private information, not sharing without permission, the idea of media ownership, and more.

With this ideas coupled with Common Sense Media’s curriculum or the new one introduced by Google, you will be well prepared to help your students be successful online.

Tweens & The Cell Phone Conversation

Back to School shopping has started. Here in Florida, we kick off “tax free weekend,” which allows parents and students to purchase back to school items and pay no sales tax. Items included on that list: clothing, school supplies, computers, tablets, and smart phones! For many parents of tweens, the start of the school year also marks the start of the “cell phone conversation.” Do I get my child a smart phone? If so, what kind of smart phone? What limits do I put on them? Is it yet age appropriate for my child to have a phone?

So, how do you start the cell phone conversation with your child? Or, if you are a teacher or school administrator, how do you advise parents? There are a few ways to get the conversation going and things for you to consider.

Is a smart phone Age-Appropriate?

I feel comfortable telling parents that a child should not have their own device if they are younger than double digits. While I have seen 8 and 9 years olds playing on devices, those devices should ultimately belong to an adult. After the age of 10, however, it becomes a little more challenging. It would be easiest if I could tell parents that X age is the right age for their child to get a smartphone. However, the reality is that every child is different.

Your child is unique in their maturity and tolerance for responsibility. A smartphone is a big responsibility. A few comparable questions: Do I feel comfortable leaving my child home alone for a few hours? Does my child take care of their toys (e.g. clothing, other electronics, etc)? Would I allow my child to supervise other children? These questions tell you a few things: Can my child safely navigate without adult supervision? Can they care for an expensive piece of electronics? Can my child effectively and safely manage and engage with others without adult supervision?

Have a Conversation About the Responsibility of a Smartphone

I know, I know… this sounds so cheesy. But the reality is that, like driving a car, getting a smartphone is a big responsibility. They are entering a new world of freedom and flexibility. One in which they can, likely will (and developmentally should) make some mistakes and missteps. If you want to know more about what kids really “get up to” 13893168079_a584a41d83_bonline, check out danah boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (this link gives you access to a free PDF version of the book). danah’s (yes, she spells it that way) book gives you a realistic look at how children engage with one another online. Here are some questions to discuss with your child:

  • What will you do if you see something that makes you uncomfortable online?
  • What will you do if you think that a friend or a classmate is being mean to you or someone else?
  • How will you react if someone makes you angry online?
  • What will you do if you think you have made a mistake in how you have acted online?
  • What will you do if your phone breaks or gets dropped in water?

This should be realistic conversations. Try not to use scare tactic examples. Pull things from real life:

“One time, Aunt Edna and I got into an argument because she responded to my selfie by saying ‘You look soooo fat!’ It turned out that she was being sarcastic and meant it as a compliment; I had recently lost weight. I thought that she was being mean. We didn’t speak for two weeks because neither of tried to clear up the communication. What could we have done better?”

Set Boundaries for Your Child & Yourself

Boundaries are important in all facets of life, including electronics. Sit down and have a conversation with your child about rules and boundaries for their new device – both for you and for them. Make a physical list that you post in your home. Think of this as an evolving process. Some of these may change as the child gets older or if you or your child feel it needs to shift. Additionally, consider consequences for violating boundaries (loss of a privilege?) Parents, keep in mind that modeling is especially important! A few items for you to consider:

  • Will there be a “no smartphone” time? For example family meals? Homework/reading time?  Family events? Bedtime?
  • Will parents be monitoring smartphone use?
  • When (during the day) is it acceptable to text? For example, what about during the school day? Parents, keep in mind that if you text a child during class-time, you may be enabling behavior you don’t want!
  • What is acceptable to share online? When should you get permission to post or share something?
  • Where will the phone be kept at night? It is often recommended to remove smartphones from children’s bedrooms at night to avoid temptation. Charge them in a parent’s room or a neutral place.

Keep Yourself Informed

Have regular conversations with your child about what they do online. Reinforce the idea that you are a trusted adult and they can come to you when they run into problems. To me, that is the most vital part of tween cell phone ownership – knowing that their parents can and will help them if they find themselves in uncomfortable situations or have made a poor decision. Some great resources for parents:

If you have some thoughts or contributions, please share them in the notes below!


Lesson Plan for Teaching Kids to Spot Fake News

Fake News is the phrase du jour. The reality is that misinformation propagates social media (especially Facebook). With the proliferation of Social Media and the use of Social Media (by main stream news organizations, political pundits, and our sitting President), it will remain a platform for sharing information (including the news) for the foreseeable future. Both Facebook and Google have made attempts to tackle fake news. In addition to their own filtering methods, Facebook allows users to flag and report fake news stories. Google has also expanded its fact-check tools to spot and flag fake news.

The reality is, however, that we cannot expect our online platforms to keep up with the deluge of fake media. Media literacy is a necessary skill for our students to learn in order for them to wade through the glut of information available to them online. However, a recent study from Stanford found that most students cannot tell real news from fake.

There is an exercise that I like to do with my students. We talk about the realities of fake news, perhaps ask them to share stories that they thought were real, but later learned were fake. I share with them resources for spotting fake news:


Next, I ask them to create a Fake News Story for me. Something that they are likely to see online via Facebook. For this exercise, students often create the obvious: “You Won’t Believe what the Democrats did this Time!” or “Donald Trump is Getting Impeached!” examples. These stories are the most obvious to spot.

The best exercise, however, comes when I ask them to team up and we make a game out of each. Each team presents five news stories. Three of those news articles are fake, two are real. If they are able to “trick” the opposing teams, they receive 1 point for each news article they fool the opposition into believing. They receive 1 point for each article they correctly identify as fake. Students then work really hard to “trick” their classmates – they play off of one another’s known biases, create convincing “news networks,” and spell check like no one’s business! They learn the ins-and-outs of posting and sharing news, viral marketing, and deceptive practices. This makes them better discerners of published media and more able-minded digital citizens.

3 Ways Schools can Help Users to Protect their Accounts from Malware, Phishing, & Cyber-scams.

Recently, G-Suite users were hit by a large phishing scam. Users were sent an email that appeared to be from Google and asked to click on a document for collaboration. The

nefarious document then gave the sender access to your whole account, including your directory, enabling it to spread. While phishing is nothing new, it has become more problematic and sophisticated. As such, it’s especially important to include some cyber-security basics as soon as students start to have access to digital tools.

Identify Scams

Most scams are pretty easy to identify. You are sent a typo laden email from someone you don’t know asking you to “check this out.” However, as email spoofing becomes more prominent, it’s important to not just open an attachment even if you know the user. There are a few red flags: the email is full of typos and errors, it doesn’t fit the tone of the sender (e.g. would your teacher be sending an email that says “check this out!”), or it just doesn’t feel right.

Keep your Operating System & Security Software Up to Date

Yes, updates can be annoying – they take a long time and may require a hardware restart in the middle of the day. However, keep your operating system and security software up to date is essential to cyber-security. While you may not want to update to the latest Windows or iOS software on day 1 (a brand new OS may have a bug or two, as early iOS 10 adopters learned when it bricked several phones), you should do so shortly after the release. Critical security updates should be installed regularly as they plug security holes and fix exploitable bugs.

Enable Two Factor Authentication

Two factor authentication is a security measure that grants you access to your account or device only after you have presented two methods of authentication (e.g. your account password and a code texted to your phone or sent to an email). It has been around for a while, but many users never enable it. Two Factor Authentication may feel like a pain, but it is the best possible defense against potential hackers or nefarious users. If you have ever been locked out of your account because another user has gained access, you know how difficult it can be to regain access and the damage that can be done to your reputation or your pocket book. Enable two factor authentication on all of your sensitive accounts (bank accounts, email, social media, etc). The extra 30 seconds it takes to log in will be worth it!

These are just a few ways that students can protect their devices and accounts from malware, phishing, and cyber-scams. However, as cyber attacks become more sophisticated, network administrators and users must become more savvy. It’s important to keep up your skills and consistently train your community. I encourage administrators to attend cyber-security webinars and workshops, such as ATLIS’s Cyber-Security Workshop in Chicago this summer.

3 Quick Tips for Building Digital Citizenship

This is reblogged from my post at Edudemic.

Digital Citizenship is one of the hot educational buzz terms this year. But what is Digital Citizenship really? In short, it covers topics such as how to conduct yourself online civilly, refrain from inappropriate behavior (like cyberbullying), engage in meaningful discourse, and build a positivedigital footprint for yourself and your institution. Just like we teach students how to behave in the schoolyard, we must do the same in cyberspace.

Schools have a tendency to shy away from actively teaching digital citizenship due to time constraints in the curriculum, concerns about student-teacher interaction online, as well as anxiety over students having ready access to social media (like Facebook and Twitter). However, there are some ways that you can build Digital Citizenship into daily interactions as well as components of dynamic lesson plans in a safe and constructive way!

Always Model Appropriate Behavior

studentsStudents always watch adults – whether we know it or not. They watch how we treat one another and engage with the world. Teenagers are often inundated with conflicting messages: their parents will check their own phone at the dinner table yet scold them for the same behavior, a teacher will be on their iPad during an assembly, and yet students are reprimanded for being on their devices in class, and adults chastise them for being rude online yet will launch into angry diatribes on a political forum. Edutopia highlighted this issue in their article, The Digital Lives of Teens: Turning ‘Do as I say’ into ‘Do as I do’.

So it is our job as educators to model appropriate online behavior for them. For example, if you have a Twitter account or a blog (even if it’s not for professional topics), you can use it to be constructive and engaging online. Don’t just tell students to be civil or constructive online, show them how to do just that. Your actions can help to demonstrate why refraining from harmful comments makes it a better experience. Let your online behavior reveal to them how powerful online communities can be for positive, communal engagement.

Openly Discuss Online Etiquette

mathsocialIt can be easy to shy away from the topic if it is brought up. However, remember that students engage online every day, often without effective adult supervision. In her article From Smoke Signals to TweetsShawn McCusker points out that throughout history, those who have been able to successfully navigate new means of communication have become the innovative leaders of their time. Social Media, believe it or not, is the telegraph of today. You can try to discuss with them the importance of safety, civility, and digital footprints. This is a great topic for home rooms or advisory periods. If you have students that flock to your room during break, I’m sure that online behavior comes up in discussion.

It is easy to find examples from students’ real lives to foster these conversations. For example, I had a group of young ladies that would often eat lunch in my classroom. One day, they began discussing the fact that they would keep track of their ex’s on Facebook, and that watching them with a new girlfriend was often very hurtful and painful, but they could not stop looking. I suggested that they un-friend their ex’s so that they would be unable to view their pages. After initially balking at the idea, one girl decided to do just that. A few weeks later she told me that her experience on Facebook had become so much more positive now that she was no longer inundated with updates about her ex and his new girlfriend. Having positive, yet frank, conversations about how students engage online can be key to tapping into their experience.

Another way to promote these conversations is to openly talk about celebrities and other high profile figures that have gotten themselves into trouble using social media. In her article, “What do ClimateGate, Tiger Woods, and Michael Phelps have in Common?” Beth Holland highlights the role that social media played in the very public scandals of these prominent and respected celebrities. The news media is rife with examples: Anthony Weiner, Amanda Bynes, and Charlie Sheen are constantly in the news for their missteps online. These are great ways to get students talking about how social media blunders can lead to some serious consequences.

Still, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative and these conversations become scare tactics. At the same time, there are a number of positive examples out there that you can discuss. For example, teenager Jeremiah Anthony started a twitter feed West High Bro’s. Currently at over 5,000 followers, the teen and his friends regularly post compliments and praise their fellow students, teachers, and members of their community. I know that I love to ask students about their positive social media experiences and encourage them to keep up these types of activities!

Incorporate Social Media into Your Lessons

Hand showing social networking concept made with white chalk on a blackboardAnother great way to bring digital citizenship into your classroom is to incorporate social media into your lesson plans. This can provide a great avenue to model behavior, discuss online actions, and provide a safe environment for students to learn and explore. There are many ways to bring digital tools into traditional curricula and established frameworks.
For example, you can establish a blog for students to post work, comment on topics, and engage in online discussions. Edublogs and KidBlog allow you to set the parameters for your classroom – blogs can be open to the public, open to your school network, or just available for your class. You control the privacy settings and thus the environment. This is a perfect opportunity for you to model online engagement as well as provide them a safe environment in which to play. It is also a great way to start those discussions about online behavior early!

And don’t fret if you’re uncomfortable with social media yourself. There are a lot of ways that teachers have engaged students in tweeting and comments without the use of any technology. My good friend and former colleague, Karen Arrington, does a great lesson with her students using only pen and paper. You can read about this project in her article, “Paper Blogging with Students.” This is a great way to prep students for online engagement without having to set up a blog or online community!

Hopefully, as the school year progresses and the more you establish an open dialogue about Digital Citizenship, model behavior, and enable open discussion, the more students will understand the expectations we have of them. At the same time, they will learn the power that comes with with positive Digital Citizenship – engagement, learning, and a good Digital Footprint that follows them through their academic and professional careers!

To learn more about Digital Citizenship, EdTechTeacher will be offering a FREE webinar on October 15th at 7:00pm EST. Registration is open. 

The iPad for Leadership by Patrick Larkin

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

Concurrent Session #3: The iPad as a Leadership Tool with Patrick Larkin

I saw Patrick Larkin first speak at the iPad Summit last Fall. If you would like to read about that, see my blog post “Getting Your Entire School Community on Board with iPads (1:1).” Given that experience, I could not pass up an opportunity to watch him again. Patrick starts out his discussion by telling us about his journey implementing iPad into a 1:1 environment. He recognizes that we are not doing what we could with iPads. As leaders in education and educational technology, iPad provides a unique opportunity for leadership.

One of the key elements of leadership is the necessity of modeling tools and behavior. In the case of a massive transition in technology and pedagogy, you need to be not just the lead user, but the lead learner! Given that, what should school leaders be doing with iPad? If we ask teachers to build their curriculum off of their desired outcome, we need to do the same with technology as educational leaders. Leaders have different needs than educators (although there can be some overlap). They need to serve as evaluators, record keepers, communicators, organization, and professional growth.

ISTE provides a great structure and framework of skills modern administrators need to have:a-indicator

  • Visionary Leadership
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Systemic Improvement
  • Professional Practice
  • Digital Age Learning
Visionary Leadership

This is a collaborative experience and process involving administrators, educators, students, and parents. Broad initiatives need the input of learners. You also invest in key people – those who will help to share the vision and expand on ideas.

Digital Citizenship

We need to model what it is to be an effective digital citizen. He asks, “What would you think of me if the following Tweets were all that you knew about me?” He then showed us an example of various tweets from students (with expletives bleeped out).

Many administrators are uncomfortable with social media. Students are largely navigating this arena without adult supervision or guidance. If we ignore this aspect of education, then we are being negligent educators and not fulfilling our mission as educational institutions. Right now, litigation is a concern for many institutions and schools causing districts to legislate social media rather than teach and model it. Patrick makes an interesting point that we are regulating social media in a way unprecedented with other learning tools.

Digital Age Learning

This is another element of modeling tools and innovation that we want to see with our educators. We need to adopt digital learning tools in our own lives, training, and practice. For example, data collection can be done digitally via a google form, subsequently modeling an assessment technique that we may want to instill in our faculties and students.

Patrick’s argument is that learning should be an individualized experience. We need to empower educators in their own classrooms and provide them the tools that they want and need. One educator made the point that iPad can magnify problems that already existed. Patrick pointed out that the problem is generally neither iPad nor technology, but rather an underlying issue that is now brought to administration’s attention.

Outreach to parents about all of this is also critical. It allows parents to understand the objectives and goals of technology in the classroom. Ultimately, working with parents can help them to understand that we aren’t just “playing Angry Birds.”

Professional Practice

Administrators must provide an environment for professional learning, adequate resources, and direct professional development support for their faculty. Instruction can and should be differentiated (as we expect educators to differentiate their teaching). In addition to access, we need to provide teachers with time to do work.

Patrick outlined a 20% rule that he implemented for faculty. During the school year, he designated a chunk of time to be used for self-development. Two rules governed this time:

  1. Do not listen to your department head
  2. Do not grade papers.

He also stressed the importance of sharing our professional development innovations with one another.

Systemic Improvement

Administrators and educators must continuously use digital tools and technologies to improve organizations, communication, and overall systemic structure. We can engage the community in these conversations as well – technology firms, businesses, communication experts, etc. – to provide support. For example, Patrick uses Evernote (one of my favorite applications) to provide instructional feedback and support and highlights several other applications that he regularly uses.

In the end, I was surprised at the number of social media applications in his repertoire. Surprised, but thrilled. I love transparency in education and leadership. As school leaders continue to encourage their faculties to innovate, experiment, and transform learning experiences for their students, it will become increasingly critical for them to model the desired behavior for their teachers. Largely what I took away from this session is the importance of this modeling.