Posted by: Jill Spencer | March 6, 2014

1:1 Digital Learning Institute

1:1 Learning Experts to Share Best Practices and Practical Advice

Digital 1:1 Learning Summit Scheduled for June 26-27 in Kennebunk, ME

KENNEBUNK, MAINE (March 5, 2014)–Digital 1:1 learning has revolutionized the learning experience, empowering teachers to personalize learning and connect students to the world like never before. An effective 1:1 program goes far beyond the purchase of laptops or tablets—yet, many schools don’t know where to begin.


A team of education experts from the Maine Association of Middle Level Educators (MAMLE) and the New England League of Middle Schools (NELMS) have organized the first annual Digital 1:1 Learning Institute, which will take place at the Middle School of the Kennebunks in Kennebunk, Maine June 26-27, 2014. Kids writing

Keynote speakers at the two-day event include Senator Angus S. King, Jr., a visionary leader who, as governor of Maine, launched the world’s first and most comprehensive 1:1 initiative to bring learning technology into all Maine middle level schools; and Dr. Mike Muir, a Maine educator and expert on engaged learning for all students. A member of the original advisory team for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), Dr. Muir helps lead the nation’s first full primary iPad project in Auburn, Maine.

Briasco-BrinnOrganizers say the conference will provide participants the knowledge and confidence to develop a vision and plan for their specific educational setting, as well as practical advice on what to do – and what not to do — from Maine teachers, administrators, and technology education leaders who have been at the forefront of digital learning for over a decade.  A panel of students whose learning was transformed by 1:1 will share their experiences.

Participants are encouraged to bring a team from their school that includes teachers, administrators and technology professionals. There will be three tracks from which to choose—elementary, middle school and high school—so participants can learn strategies appropriate to the level they teach. ipads - 14-2

KinderKid readingThe cost of the conference, not including accommodations, is $295 per person if registered before May 15; when a five-member team is registered together, a sixth registration is free. Participants will receive 12 continuing education credits for attending this conference.

For more information or to register, visit


Chris Toy

Jill Spencer



By Ed Brazee, Jill Spencer, and Chris Toy

This post first appeared on the Platform For Good Blog,, and is being reposted with permission.

Ed, Jill, and Chris are experienced educators who also run the blog, Digital Citizenship 4 All.

At Digital Citizenship 4 All, we think the digital culture that our children and students experience every day makes it essential for families and educators to collaborate as never before. As barriers between home and school have tumbled, it is especially critical for these two groups to be knowledgeable about learning and technology, how students can use the many digital tools available to them, and most importantly, how they must support each other in these endeavors.

In our Digital Learning Series, written for middle and high school students, their families, and their teachers, we’ve designed eight interactive modules on topics that we think are essential. Here is a brief tour through a number of topics that teens, their parents, and their teachers should be talking about.

In “First Impressions Matter, Putting Your Best Foot Forward,” we emphasize the critical connection between a person’s digital footprint and their online reputation. Will Rogers put it best when he said, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Knowing when to be smart about online posts and how to monitor online behavior is key.

“Creating and Protecting Your Online Reputation” gives an in-depth look at how we are all digitally knowable. Here we show students how to locate their online activities – both the ones they know about and others that surprise them. This is also the time when middle school students should begin to build a “site” – a type of digital portfolio – where they can be found online.

In “To Be or Not To Be, Personal Branding,” students learn to build their personal brand. At what point should they switch from being relatively anonymous online to using their own name as their brand? What does our email name say about us? What do our posts, photos, and online activity hint about our reputation? All of these things comprise our brand and define us, for good or bad, in others’ eyes. Although a new phenomenon, personal online branding must be a topic of conversation both at home and at school.

“Ensuring Online Safety and Privacy” is about staying safe online by following a few simple guidelines. As much as we would like to think that by being careful we can maintain our privacy, the reality is that there is no privacy online, and students need to know that. One way to be safe online is to be vigilant about setting strong passwords and never, ever sharing account information with others.

All of these early modules are in preparation for “Presenting Yourself Online – Where Will You Be Found.” For this, students must create their own online presence in the form of a personal resume or digital portfolio, which is what we call their digital backpack. It is absolutely critical for middle and high school students to have a thoughtfully-crafted online presence where potential employers, college admissions officers, or anyone else, can find them and form a positive first impression. While many teens think Facebook is that place, it is not. It’s essential that teens have a professional presence that they control and that showcases their skills, abilities, accomplishments, and goals. There are many formats available, but students commonly use websites, blogs, wikis, or some other digital format that works for them.

Finally, in “Weighing the Options – Making Choices” we investigate the positive possibilities and the challenges of the digital world. Issues such as online-sexting, harassment, and cyberbulling must be confronted and discussed. On the other side, teens must also learn about the fantastic opportunities for collaboration, social activism, creative expression, and entrepreneurship that the Internet allows. Simply put, students need more opportunities to address these options throughout the school curriculum.

The final two modules are specifically for parents and teachers. “Raising Children in the Digital Age – Any Century Parenting” and “What About Young Adolescents” offer advice about digital parenting that dispels the myth that a whole new set of parenting skills are needed in the digital age. Also, specific age-appropriate guidelines for families and educators of middle schoolers is contrasted with those for high schoolers.

Yes, it is time for families and educators to be on the same digital page, and we think these are the kinds of topics they need to know about as they teach their teens to be safe, responsible, respectful, and ethical both on and off-line.

The Digital Learning Series was written by Ed Brazee, Jill Spencer, and Chris Toy, who also blog at Digital Citizenship 4 All. For more information contact Ed Brazee at, Jill Spencer at, or Chris Toy at

Ed Brazee is professor emeritus of education at the University of Maine where he taught for 25 years. He now develops online resources for parents, teachers, and students around digital citizenship issues and student technology teams. This year he is teaching 8th grade.

Jill Spencer is a former middle school teacher, now an international consultant, author, and literacy coach. She works with schools and educators on all aspects of literacy, instructional practices, and learning and technology.

Chris Toy is a former middle school principal from Freeport, Maine and an independent educational consultant working with schools around the world to effectively integrate 21st century skills and resources in teaching, learning, and school leadership.

Posted by: Jill Spencer | November 7, 2013

AMLE Presentation PDF

Ed, Chris and Jill presented at the Association for Middle Level Education’s Annual Conference in Minneapolis. The title of the session was Helping Students Create & Control Their Online Reputation.

Below is the pdf version of their presentation.

Online reputation 2

online reputaton

Posted by: Ed Brazee | August 19, 2013

(Digital) Citizenship…everyday

Not sure if you are going North or South?

The new school year is the perfect time to change direction. One topic that nearly every classroom needs is more time on (digital) citizenship where students (and their teachers) learn about safety, respect, and responsibility online, but also how to be ethical human beings. We aren’t talking about a separate “when we have time” event or special project. We are talking about (digital) citizenship as an daily part of the curriculum. Everyday!

More and more of our time is consumed thinking about,  discussing, or rueing the fact that our lives are dominated by technology. Isn’t it about time that we actually did something about it?

Here are several ideas that can take off in your classroom from day one.

1. Take 5-10 minutes everyday to discuss articles or stories from the media. Every newspaper or magazine or online publication is full of articles about the good, the bad, and the downright ugly side of technology and modern life. We need to talk about these issues with our students at school (and parents need to do the same with their children at home). From the obvious to the more subtle—talking and texting while driving, texting etiquette when with others, knowing when to turn your device off, and knowing how to differentiate facts from fluff online. Most importantly, is making sure that your students learn to be much more than facile with Facebook and tenacious at texting. Technology is to be used for learning and that lesson is the one that will be best learned by action, not just discussion.

2. Or try role-playing some of these situations that your class is reading, seeing, or hearing about. How about two friends who are out to lunch and one person pulls out her cell phone and starts texting, ignoring the friend in front of her? Or, a person who is talking on his cell phone about some personal medical information for everyone to hear? Or, how about two parents talking to each other about what limits on technology use they should set for their children and teens? You may be surprised at the level of understanding of these complex issues that your students will show. And, they will remember more from these role-playing exercises than simply talking about them.

3. What are several issues that students are talking about and obviously concerned about in your classroom? Knowing how to differentiate fact from opinion and facts disguised as facts? Are devices or Internet access restricted in your school? Why is that happening and what can your students learn about that? What restrictions do they have at home? What adults do you see who use technology positively and negatively in your opinion? How would you like to use technology to solve a problem in your community, school, or world? Your students have all sorts of questions, so use their interests as a starting place.

There are tons of excellent resources and activities around every possible digital citizenship skill or topic, but please note that I haven’t mentioned any of them here. Digital citizenship issues are in front of us and sometimes we simply need to use common sense to discuss them with our students.

Why not give it a try?

Posted by: Jill Spencer | July 10, 2013

Developing a Digital Footprint–Advice from Experts

Lisa Nielson, director of digital literacy and citizenship at the New York City Department of Education, blogs as the Innovative Educator. A recent post offers advice from a variety of people on the topic of social media and students.  Arranged in a colorful infogram style, different pieces of advice from students, career coaches, and college experts offer food for thought for parents, educators, and students working their way toward adulthood.  Things to ponder include:

  • Using social media to demonstrate a skill set
  • Making your voice heard on issues of the day
  • Extending learning beyond the classroom

Each little snippet could be the focal point of a lesson or activity for an advisory group, digital citizenship class, or career exploration unit.

The issue of social media in school is not one that is going to go away.  Faculties do a great disservice to their students if they keep their heads in the sand and ignore the implications of social media on their students’ futures.  Reading and discussing blogs like Nielson’s ought to be occurring in faculty meetings.

Parents also need to educate themselves about the realities of the digital world; children need to learn how to navigate the Internet and social media, and parents need to help them do it wisely.

Check out what some experts have to say at Nielson’s blog:

Posted by: Ed Brazee | June 12, 2013

The family that uses technology together…

CC BY by blakespot

CC BY by blakespot

Recently, I interviewed Ray, father of a tech-savvy family to ask him about the digital challenges of his busy crew. Ray, a technology professional and Amy (mother), a substitute teacher, have five children ranging in age from 9 to 23. Needless to say, Ray and Amy have had many opportunities to sharpen their parenting skills around technology issues. As immersed in technology as they are in the normal course of events, Ray and Amy’s family enjoy whitewater rafting, taking them away from technology for a much-needed break.

Here is how they live with technology in their home.

What access does your family have to technology?

At home we have a family computer, a smart TV, Xbox360, Wii, and a family iPad. Dad has a smartphone, two desktop computers for work, and a work laptop. Mom has an iPod and a Kindle. Heather and Nik both have laptops, smartphones, and iPods. Heather also has a Nook. Meri has her own laptop, iPhone, iPod, and Kindle. Nolan has an iPod and his MacBook from school. Nason has an iPod. We have a built-in GPS in one car and a detached GPS for the other car.

What family guidelines do you have for your children’s use of technology.

We limit not only the times of day they can be on the computer, or use any other electronics, but also how long they can be on it. We don’t allow the younger kids to have electronics in their bedrooms. The family computer is in a common area. These rules don’t vary much until they turn 18. After that they are an adult and hopefully will make good decisions. They can earn or lose “electronic time” depending on their behavior.

What technology issues do you discuss as a family?

We’ve talked about being responsible online. Don’t post anything that you would not want to see on the front page of a national newspaper. Don’t talk to strangers. If you don’t know them in real life, then you probably shouldn’t talk to them online. I’ve explained how technology is a tool and to not let it control you or your time. You have to use good time management. We’ve talked about not hiding behind the computer. Talk to people as if they were right there in front of you. We’ve explained that as long as they are under age, that we have the right (and will from time to time), check on what they are doing.

What are the biggest concerns for you as parents regarding your children, technology, and the future?

Time management, etiquette and making smart decisions. There have been times for some of the children, and at different ages, I have had to keep a close watch on their activities. They find ways using different devices to get access to the Internet, whether at home or hotspots around town. I’ve had to use monitoring software, locked down the router for their MAC addresses so either they didn’t have Internet access at all or only during certain hours. I’ve had to follow their Internet “breadcrumbs” to see what they are up to and follow their time line of events. Once I see they are making good decisions and being responsible and ethical, then I back off. For some of my kids that process happened sooner rather than later. For others they never learned this lesson.

Final Words by Ray

It is very beneficial to have someone in the household who is tech savvy. I am the go-to-person to fix hardware, make sure programs are up-to-date, install new programs, deal with viruses, integrate technology, set-up hardware and software, perform backups, and more. It’s like I’m running my own data center here at my house! I believe that I’m more advanced than most people and can only imagine how they struggle with this. I have known people that don’t know how to deal with a simple hardware fix or virus and buy a new computer only to have it happen again a year later!

How do you handle these issues in your home?

Posted by: Jill Spencer | June 4, 2013

Data Mining: Should Students Understand Its Implications?

“This is John.  I’ve called to make arrangements for delivery of the home health products…”

“I’m sorry,” I say most politely, “you must have the wrong number.”

Then he launched into a marketing pitch.  Click!  I hang up.

First I’m really irritated that this company tried to get me to buy something by suggesting I have already ordered it.  And then, I’m doubly irritated that someone has sold the company information about me.  There is no doubt that this wasn’t a random cold call. They were targeting people from a specific age group; a twenty or thirty-something year old would not have been targeted for this marketing ploy.

This episode got me thinking about all the ways our personal information, likes, and interests are mined through our journeys on the Internet.  My Facebook page now suggests companies and organizations they (?) think I should like.  Amazon, well Amazon always has suggestions of items for me to purchase.  It’s one thing when the proprietor of your local bookstore gets to know you personally and makes recommendations.  But there is not a person at the Amazon home office who is thinking that Jill might like this new mystery.  No, it’s a computer programmed to track my purchases and then spit out suggestions. I know some folks think of this feature as personalization, but it feels invasive, even creepy to me. I really do not want a giant corporation gathering all of this data about me and then possibly selling it to cushion their bottom line.

However, unless I am willing to take myself offline, diminished privacy is the new normal.  So then I wonder, how are we helping students understand the ramifications of personal data mining?  When schools can’t even find the time to teach social studies anymore because of the  hours and hours of test prep, where can they possibly fit in an exploration of global digital citizenship issues.  Perhaps,  in those few and far-between social studies classes they can compare and contrast the Age of the Industrial Revolution with the Age of the Information Revolution–positive and negative impacts on society.

Am I way off base here?  As part of the formal curriculum, shouldn’t we be helping our students understand data mining and its implications?  Civics? Government? Economics? Current Events? Historical precedents?

Posted by: Ed Brazee | May 20, 2013

Parents…try this at home

Parents needed here! 

Not too long ago we introduced children and teens to magazines, newspapers, books, and television news. We taught them how to be discriminating readers and viewers, how to analyze complex issues, and (hopefully) how to think for themselves. That information flow was like a dripping faucet, relatively easy to manage.

In 2013 we buy our kids cellphones—smart and otherwise. We pay for monthly Internet service. We buy them laptops and tablets to use at home and school. Consequently, our children are readily connected to the world every single moment. And we wonder, given the vast opportunities for learning online, why the two primary online activities for teens are still texting their friends and spending several hours each day on social media like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Tumblr. It appears that many teens have a limited set of online activities—social connections and entertainment. How do we help them expand their horizons?

From close range it appears that children and teens are only scratching the surface in using what experts have described as a “firehose” of Internet accessible information. For example, how long does it take to compose, write, send, and respond to 3417 texts each month, the average number of texts that 12-18-year-olds send? Just how long does it take to stop, read, consider, and respond to a text message…especially when we receive 114 texts everyday?

With all this time spent staying connected with friends, when does learning, collaborating, creating, and using the resources of the Internet to learn and do good actually occur? The short answer is that none of these things happen without some parental help…intentional assistance. Here is one specific thing that any parent can do to help her/his teen move beyond what often appears to be mindless texting and excessive time on social media. (Yes, I know these are value judgments from an adult point of view!)

One of the best things that parents (and teachers) can do is to show your teen how to “follow” several people who write and are involved in really interesting things. Scientists, researchers, policy makers, writers, artists, musicians, and others. The point, of course, is to introduce our kids and teens to new points of view, intriguing people who make important contributions to society, and actively work to solve intractable problems. There are plenty of interesting people to watch and learn from through TED videos, but take a look at these impressive young people doing important work.

Julia Bluhm and Izzy Labbe, 9th graders, are bloggers, activists, and feminists who write for SPARK, a girl-fueled activist movement working to end the sexualization of women and girls in media. Julia and Izzy’s petition to encourage Seventeen Magazine to stop using Photoshopped images of young girls gathered over 86,000 signatures and eventually led to a “Body Peace Treaty” when Seventeen agreed to feature more authentic images of girls. Both young women are now active bloggers and speak widely about their experiences and work. Watch their excellent presentation at TEDx Women 2012  to hear their full story.

Two other teens to follow: Girls rights’ advocate and philanthro-teen, Annie Gersh and Adora Svitak, writer, teacher, and youth voice activist.

I guarantee that after seeing or reading about the work from any one of these teen activists, your teen will be inspired and ready to get involved!

Posted by: Jill Spencer | May 17, 2013

Social Networking–It Does Not Stand Still!

“Hmmm,” I thought, “I wonder what’s new in social networking?”  I’m preparing for an adult ed class on this topic next week and decided I better do a little research on the latest sites.  Oh my goodness, there is a lot going on! First I just searched “new social networking sites” and found these two articles:

I recognized several of the sites listed (Instagram & Pinterest), but the others were all new to me.  It is abundantly clear we need to be actively working with students to help them learn to manage their digital lives.  They have so many options or some say distractions to choose from that can potentially suck up their time that might be spent on school work or community projects or pursuing an interest beyond the internet. As I reviewed all of these new choices my mind went back to what several high school students have said about using digital devices in a 1:1 school.  They admitted to exploring social networking while they were supposed to be studying, but remarked that they moved beyond that habit as they realized its impact on their learning.  They each said they were glad they learned to deal with the “temptation” before they went to college. Returning college students have said the same thing — “My classmates, having access to laptops during class for the first time, don’t pay attention to the professor because they are too busy on Facebook.  I’m glad I’m past that!”  I thought that was really an important observation the kids were making; educators and parents ought to pay attention to these comments.

But back to my adult ed class on social networking.  I continued to look for more information. I follow ISTE on Facebook where I found an interesting blog post by Dean Groom entitled “Twitter and Facebook are not where kids are heading. Meet Kik and Oink.”  It’s worth a read because he summarizes the capabilities of a couple of new social networking sites including some cautions for parents and educators. “Yes. Kik is one of a number of tools like this, all of which give kids the friend-networks they crave – and lock you out of. Talking about using Twitter to the Kik-Gen will make you appear a dinosaur. Kik has no educational or pedagogical value whatsoever.” 

He is stating an opinion so it is always worth digging deeper.  I went to Common Sense Media, my go-to site for useful information on digital citizenship and social networking for kids and searched Kik.  Their recommendation is that it is age appropriate for 16 year olds and above and has little educational value.  Of course that means that every 12 year old on the planet will want to join.

So…I have some homework to do before I teach that class on social networking, and I think all of us need to be very aware that although we have mastered Facebook and Twitter that our students are out in hyper-cyberspace somewhere far ahead of us!  Being a life-long learner is no longer a nice platitude, but a sharp reality if we are going to be working with 21st century students. Great fun!

Posted by: Ed Brazee | May 9, 2013

Smartphones or Behavior—Out of Control?

Scenario #1—Last Saturday was gorgeous so my mother and I opted for outdoor dining. No more than three minutes after we ordered, a cell phone rang at an adjacent table. One of the two 40-something men at the table answered his phone and for the next 10 minutes carried on an animated conversation while his companion, a real person sitting two feet away, looked increasingly irritated and annoyed. What is wrong with this picture?

Scenario #2—Standing in line for my flight to leave Logan International Airport several weeks ago I overheard a very graphic conversation by a man also waiting in the same line about his upcoming colonoscopy. He did not spare any details, but I won’t share them with you! You might think that the TMI Rule (too much information) would be in force, but that was not the case.  The many visual cues we gave this gentleman by those of us forced to listen in, did not change his behavior either. What is wrong with this picture?

Scenario #3—Another restaurant…note a pattern? Close quarters with a series of booths back to back to back. I knew we were in trouble when four women entered the restaurant with one woman already talking as she strode across the dining room. That call was just the beginning as she continued to take and make a series of calls for the next 45 minutes. What about her three companions you might wonder? Good question. They talked around her as she barely acknowledged their presence. I wonder if she will be invited to dinner next time? What is wrong with this picture?

Aren’t these examples from adult models our children and teens see, and learn from, everyday?

What are your responses to each of these scenarios?

As adults, what lessons can we learn from these incidents?

As adults, how can we help children and teens learn to use their cellphones appropriately, especially in public?

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