Posted by: Jill Spencer | May 2, 2013

Common Sense Media’s Videos

Common Sense Media has a series of videos for professional development.  Some of the titles include:

  • Copyrights & wrongs
  • Talking safely online
  • How do you involve parents in digital citizenship?
  • Cyberbullying: What’s crossing the line?

This is a very short post because I am going to go check out some of these videos!

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Posted by: Jill Spencer | April 21, 2013

Resources from Edutopia

Wondering what innovative educators are doing across the country?  My go-to-site is Edutopia.  I am never disappointed!  Curious about what they might have related to digital citizenship, I did a search and found these blogs:

1. Ideas for Digital Citizenship PBL Projects by Andrew Miller from the Buck Institute, a leading proponent of project-based learning.  He suggests a combo of components to consider as we plan…

  • Incorporate the NETS from ISTE–he points out that there are actual digital citizenship standards!  They are listed below.  ISTE, by the way. is the International Society for Technology in Education.
Digital Citizenship
Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Students:
a. advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.
b. exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
c. demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
d. exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.
  • Focus on an authentic purpose for your unit–have students design a program or create an information campaign or solve a problem related to digital citizenship that they present to a wider audience than their teacher.  My first thought is that many middle grades students would get into creating a children’s book on digital citizenship or social media for elementary students, especially if it went into the school’s library.
  • Include content standards–certainly the Common Core literacy standards are a natural fit, and they stretch across the curriculum.  A lot of information about the CCSS relates to reading closely and writing argument essays.  However, there are specific standards that are integral to the digital world.

Key Anchor Standards pertinent to digital citizenship

Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

2. VideoAmy’s Five-Minute Film Festival: Teaching Digital Citizenship, a treasure trove of short video clips, provides information for teachers, students, and parents. Here’s one of the videos on her list that would be a great discussion starter at a parents’ night.

Other topics in her film festival include: protecting online privacy, safety, and an example of a digital citizenship curriculum from Google and YouTube.

Teachers, parents, and schools need not feel alone as they work hard to help children and teens navigate the digital world.  There are many resources available–just be sure to preview them carefully before sharing them with students or the wider community.  Remember–things that scare adults often seem enticing to young people.  Look for resources, like the ones mentioned above, that are purposeful, balanced and open the door for ongoing conversations.

Posted by: Ed Brazee | April 12, 2013

People, time, and learning—A balance worth achieving

This old piece of playground equipment reminds me of an essential concept in our high tech world…balance.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about balance—days when I push back from the computer late in the afternoon and realize that I’ve lost the sunniest or warmest part of the day to be outside; or those days when I only communicate with people virtually through texts, email, or Skype, not a real person in sight; or, even those days when my primary learning is through a series of video tutorials. But I’m an adult who grew up before technology and learned how to talk with people, develop relationships, and interpret cues that don’t necessarily come through a screen. Read More…

Posted by: Ed Brazee | April 2, 2013

Three Perspectives on Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship

A simple Google search of “digital citizenship” nets 15,100,000 hits. Fifteen million! How do we make sense out of all that information? How do we separate the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad, the ridiculous from the sublime?

I’ve selected these three blog posts because each represents a unique and thoughtful perspective on digital citizenship. You may like them so much you will want to follow these bloggers!

Does digital citizenship have to be a new program? School counselor, Lauren Seaberg, wrote a great piece on “Digital Citizenship” in her blog School Counseling Across the Pond.  School counselors and teachers worked as a team to develop a program that includes an Acceptable Use Agreement linked to their school rule of respect, provided information, resources, and sessions with and for parents, and designed a curriculum scope and sequence based on NETS performance standards and Common Sense Media curricular resources. Takeaways: A school program that is pro-active instead of reactive; connection between the character education work already in place and a newer digital citizenship focus; recognition that every member of the school is responsible for “…addressing issues as they occur in special teaching moments.” Don’t forget to watch the excellent Prezi (link embedded in Seaberg’s post) for more information about this unique program.

What is meant to be public and what is meant to be private? Recently George Couros, school principal, blogger, and technology and learning expert asked, “Is your school’s “digital citizenship” practice a pass or fail?” to begin a discussion about digital citizenship practice in schools. Takeaways: Key questions— “Do we work with kids and really talk about the implications of what bad online behavior can lead to?” In response to some inappropriate tweets…”Did a teacher ever work with this student to talk about the possible consequences of her actions?” Couros gives a rubric for schools as they consider their digital citizenship practice. While Couros believes that we ultimately need to move our students to the point of Digital Leadership (and I agree with him) his rubric is an excellent starting place for teachers and administrators confronting social media and school practice. Think carefully about Couros’ final query—where is your school on this digital citizenship continuum?

What are several things you think you know about Digital Citizenship? Tim Wilhelmus wrote an extensive piece about 11 things he thinks he knows in his blog, Playground Advocate. An Integrating Curriculum and Technology Specialist, Wilhelmus stresses the need for healthier conversations about digital citizenship. “We need to be less worried about being awkward and more concerned with making sure we are honest and open.”  Takeaways: A digital citizenship day/week or a one-shot lesson doesn’t work. “Digital citizenship discussions have to happen in every class throughout the year as learning opportunities arise.” Also, inviting kids to take a moral stand on digital citizenship issues is a powerful way to engage them because even though they are “…very protective of their rights and autonomy…they are also very protective of justice and fairness.” Finally, teachers and parents must be positive role models making good choices online and talking about those choices with our children and students. For schools who have not addressed the need for some sort of digital citizenship program this blog post is an excellent place to begin.

What digital citizenship resources do you recommend?

Posted by: Ed Brazee | March 19, 2013

Simplifying digital citizenship?

IMG_1462If someone advises you to be careful online, what exactly does that mean? When should children start using their real names online…and why? When we advise our children or students not to put anything online they wouldn’t want their grandmother to see or hear, what does that mean?

Sometimes advice, any advice, is simply too philosophical…too esoteric…too general to have any practical application. For example, what do kids hear when we admonish them to be good, or safe, or responsible online?  Does that translate into—my parents don’t know what I am doing so I can do what I’ve always done online. Or, I’m not using my real name, so what does it matter if I say some bad things about that kid I don’t like anyway. Or, it’s the Internet, how can I get in trouble, I’m just having some fun.

Is this why talking about digital citizenship responsibilities is often ignored by both teens and adults. To cut through any confusion, here are five specific guidelines that cover a wide swath across digital citizenship issues and are as appropriate for 16-year-olds as they are for 60-year-olds. (And don’t forget to click on the links for more information about each guideline.)

1. Do not talk or text on your phone while driving. Not ever. I mean that exactly, not ever! If you are tempted to look at your phone when it rings or vibrates, lock it in the glove box before you start the engine. (If you are too young to drive, don’t text while riding your bike or walking.)

2. Use technology for good to make a contribution to your local community, state, or beyond. Help someone at the local senior center learn to use her phone, computer, or tablet. Students, volunteer to help Girl Scouts earn their technology proficiency badges. Other ways to use your technology and contribute at the same time—become a water quality volunteer for a stream or lake; participate in a citizen science project, or; see how people help others around the world.

3. Reduce your time on Facebook or texting by 20 minutes everyday. Use that time to discover other ways to learn online: Read the news, introduce yourself to a new book or magazine, learn to play an instrument, master a new dance move, or read about the amazing contributions that other teens are adding to their communities and world. Discover tutorials! Google it…and you will find whatever you are looking for.

4. Get exercise and some fresh air. Stow your computer or phone and take yourself for a walk, ride your bicycle, shoot some baskets, or play Frisbee with a friend. Relax and enjoy while forgetting about texts, tweets, Facebook, and the rest.

5. When preparing to text or post a comment about others that is not complimentary think about how you would feel if someone posted the same about you. Hit delete…and see #4 above. (Ok, this is obviously the source of most online disputes, arguments, hurt feelings, and worse. We’ll talk about this from multiple viewpoints in upcoming blogs.)

Are these ideas specific enough? Useful? Which one will you start with?

Posted by: Jill Spencer | March 12, 2013

Opportunities to Address Digital Citizenship Are Everywhere

When to teach digital citizenship?  The quick answer is: “Every time you have an opportunity!” The many facets of digital citizenship–social networking, email, intellectual property, publishing, etc.– lend themselves to integration across the curriculum.  Here are a couple of examples:

1. The research project: The traditional instruction related to writing research reports usually includes tips for finding resources, methods for taking notes, the proper format for bibliographies or work consulted pages, and discussions about plagiarism.  The digital world offers text, images, and audio for students to access as they research and create “products” to demonstrate their learning.  These choices open a whole catalog of possibilities for abusing intellectual property rights.  The Association for Middle Level Education’s Middle Level Insider posted an article I wrote on using the Internet responsibly–it may be helpful as you teach the research process :

2. Language Arts literature units: Characters from novels and short stories potentially would  have a lot to say on social networking sites like Facebook .  In Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Cassie Logan and Miz Lillian Jean get into a real knock-down altercation.  A quick activity might have students assuming roles of the two girls and other characters writing possible posts to Facebook based on the incident.  The girls really disliked each other, so one can imagine that some posts would be negative in nature. As the posts are shared in class (and not really posted), students might be asked to think about and discuss the ramifications for the girls if it were (1) really the 1930’s in rural Mississippi, (2) in the students’ own school in modern day,  and (3) in the future when a potential employer or school admissions officer or even the parent of a new boyfriend were reading these posts. These quick assignments provide opportunities to explore how social networking comments can escalate quickly with unforeseen consequences, that nothing posted ever really disappears, and what your posts say about you as well as about the person you are commenting on.

3. Social Studies: Think of all of the great questions related to the Constitution and the the Bill of Rights as seen through the lens of the digital world!

  1. How far does Freedom of Speech extend to electronic messages?
  2. Does the 4th amendment mean that my school-issued computer cannot be searched without a warrant?
  3. Does the Freedom of Assembly extend to things like Google Hangouts?

Finally, if you have never visited Common Sense Media’s site, it’s worth a visit!

They have resources for educators and parents.

Do not wait for your school to develop a formal digital citizenship curriculum–look for opportunities everyday to talk with your students about the rights and responsibilities of being a digital citizen of the world!

Posted by: Ed Brazee | March 7, 2013

What are the rules of your (digital) road?


Courtesy of Sugeesh

Stay in your own lane. At stop signs, yield to those on your right. Don’t pass on a yellow line. Observe the speed limit.

When driving these rules of the road work well for most people. But what about rules that help guide us on digital roadways?

When with friends is it appropriate to talk or text with others? In class, if I am discrete about it, is it permissible to answer email or texts, watch videos, or respond to Facebook? Why can’t I post a picture of my friend with a beer in her hand at last Saturday’s party? And what is wrong with making comments about other people on my Facebook page?

There is no doubt that we need a “driver’s manual” to help us develop our own digital guidelines?  Technology now gives us so many ways to connect with others, to say anything we want to say, and to make available anything we write, say, and do to a global audience. While we have a huge opportunity to use technology a positive force for good, but it can also be frightening. And sometimes, wrong or inappropriate choices may get us into trouble if we aren’t careful.

The good news is that we have common sense to guide us. The bad news is that we have common sense to guide us.

In setting our digital rules of the road we must depend on the same values that guide us in every other aspect of life—responsibility, respect for others, caring, compassion, civility, safety, ethical behavior, consideration for others, and more.

Adults must be intentional about helping children and teens learn to use technology safely, responsibly, respectfully, and ethically? That is best done by being positive role models, by talking with them everyday about the issues they face, and by providing a supportive and safe environment to do all of this. Attempting to hide these influences by banning devices or the Internet does not teach them the skills they need for life in the 21st century. Quite literally, our children’s digital reputations depend on being savvy, safe, and responsible online as well as offline.

Here are three of my (very basic) digital guidelines that I’ve developed after significant trial and error.

• Pay attention to the people I’m with. Keep my phone OFF and in my pocket….no texting or calling when I am with others.

• Stay focused on the task at hand. No aimless web surfing when I need to finish my work.

• Don’t say anything online (or appear in any photos) that I would not want my mother to see.

What are the rules of your digital road?

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