Final Project

Final Project

Well my house is a mess… but we have a really cool project to share with the world. Over the last couple months Branelle and I have met to plan and execute a digital citizenship unit for middle years teachers. It follows the Digital Continuum that was published by the Ministry of Education and uses Ribbles 9 Elements. We hope that educators will find it useful in teaching digital citizenship in their classrooms.

Our website can be found here:



Putting theory into practice… Moving forward after ECI 832.



Prior to this class, I knew what it meant to be a digital citizen. I knew how to access my school divisions resources in order to teach lessons on digital citizenship in order to allow my students to make use of their personal devices in our classroom (in agreement with our BYOT policy). However, this course has transformed my views around digital citizenship. Digital citizenship needs to be more than a mini-unit taught at the beginning of the year. It is so important that educators immerse digital citizenship into their daily teaching.

I strongly believe my job as an educator, is to provide my students with the skills they need to be contributing members of society. As we move forward in our digital world I feel that sheltering my students from media would be doing a disservice to them and set them up for failure.  Instead I believe it is important to teach them to navigate our digital world successfully. Access to the internet has given a voice to our students and an avenue to express themselves and promote change in our world. Let’s empower them to make positive change.

The Digital Citizenship Continuum from the Government of Saskatchewan provides a frame work for educators to begin covering this material in their classroom. Branelle Zenuk and I have thoroughly engaged in this document and hope that very soon we can share our website with ready-to-go lessons or grades 6-9 that can be easily infused into the content teachers already have planned. We hope teachers will find value in our lessons and it will help them to build their resources in the area of digital citizenship.

As a grade 7/8 teacher, my students lives are greatly affected by social media. On occasion, incidents that have taken place on social media outside of school time have impacted dynamics in the classroom. These incidents can strain relationships in the classroom and cause disruptions in student learning. To simply say it didn’t happen at school is not enough acceptable. Through digital citizenship lessons we can teach the importance of respect at all times.  While this is a complex issue, it can be summed up with the key message in this video, “If you wouldn’t say in in person, why say it online?”.

I feel the need to share a wonderful experience I had in my own classroom this year. We participated in the 2015 Student First Anti-bullying Forum. This event was extremely well organized and even teachers with limited tech skills could easily participate.

This event created meaningful opportunities for our students to practice the skills they have learned through explicit teaching of digital citizenship in a mediated forum. The LiveCube forum allowed students to practice acting appropriately online while connecting with thousands of students from across the province.

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As a teacher, I signed up online. There was an information hour after school one day. The great thing about it is I didn’t have to run out after school to make it on time for a meeting. The session was broadcasted live over the internet. This not only made me feel prepared to facilitate the session with my students the following week but gave me the opportunity to test out the technology, test the site we would be using and work out any possible glitches in advance.

On the morning of the 17th, with the help of Jennifer Stewart Mitchell we set the classroom up like a conference with treats and prepared to lead grade 7/8s through the live broadcast. The broadcast was projected on the whiteboard. Opening remarks were delivered by the Honorable Don Morgan. This was followed by keynote Alec Couros. There was very little need to manage student behaviours that morning as the students were so engaged by Alec’s presentation. Alec used a variety of media clips that the students could relate to. There are several grants available to groups of students who want to start projects for anti-bullying. Several realistic examples were shared that inspired our kids to take action in our own school. Additionally, students were shown how to use the online bullying reporting tool.

While the live broadcast was on, students had the opportunity to engage in discussion with other students across the province who were participating through the use of LiveCube. Below is ascreen shot of the LiveCube platform. Much like Twitter students/small groups/classes have the opportunity to make posts of 140 characters or less.


I have come across the term “gamify” several times this semester. Jessica Sanders, in her blog post defines gamification as, “noun: the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task), so as to encourage participation”.  In my classroom I use Classcraft which essentially turns the classroom into a game with the use of positive behavior reinforcement. Students earn points for demonstrating positive behaviours that can be used to buy powers and redeem rewards in this classroom. The game is all online and students can change their characters and manage their profiles independently. Minecraft is also increasingly being used in classrooms in an effort to improve student learning outcomes. In Jessica’s blog she explains how teachers have been using gamification to improve their students reading. LiveCube encouraged student participation through it’s gamification features. An exciting part for students was the ability to complete challenges and earn points and earn prizes.


A couple days after the Student First Live Broadcast there was an online student chat. This once again took place on Live Cube. I arranged my students in small groups and they gathered around a laptop to show that they have learned. This LiveCube chat was closed to the public. Only registered classrooms could participate. As mentioned above, this provided an opportunity to engage with others on social media. However, it was a closed forum. It was mediated by professionals and class content was monitored by their teachers. It was a SAFE place to practice digitial citizenship temporarily but we hope the lessons learned will last a life time.

Through course content we have seen that people are not always very forgiving and the consequences of what we post online can last a life time. Moving forward, I hope to provide my students with the skills to act appropriately online and make good decisions on their own when I’m not watching them in a closed environment. I believe we can prepare them for this through including digital citizenship in all subject areas. After providing them with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful we need to allow them opportunities to make informed digital footprints.


Digital Stamps/footprints…. Call it what you want, what mark will you leave?


Last week I signed my class up to participate in the 2015 Online Anti-bullying form. Upon reviewing the teacher facilitation guide I came across an excellent video clip titled Digital Dossier. Your digital dossier is all the information that is created about you over your life. This starts at birth and continues even after you die. Then earlier this week, Barbara DeWitt, recently shared a TED talk titled Digital Footprints by Michelle Clark. In this video she talks about responsible use of the internet and the importance of building genuine relationships. Sometimes educators find it difficult to connect with youth when talking about Social Media because sometimes they are not as heavily involved in the pressures that come with social media. Likewise, sometimes youth think that their teachers just don’t understand.  Clark uses poetry to assist her in making connections with youth. She shares examples of when we make our lives public we may face consequences in the future. She discussed how sometimes people feel they are exercising their right to self expression. However, later this can come back to haunt us. One example she shared was  of a young man who had been accepted to his dream university only to have the acceptance rescinded due to a post he had made on facebook. Rather than be devastated by the consequences of our online actions Clark offers the following suggestions:

  • Slow down, take time to think before you post
  • She asks you to consider, “How does this instant information impact our hopes and dreams?”
  • Ask yourself: “How could this information be interpreted? or released?”

She closes by reminding us that digital decisions can last a life time. There is no Ctrl+Z once you have made something available online. This week I explored author, Erik Qualman’s TED talk My Digital Stamp. In his talk, he poses the question: “How are people going to remember you?” He explains that each of us now has the opportunity through social media to become a mini-celebrity. We do this through our digital stamp. Qualman outlines two ways to contribute to our digital stamp:

  1. Digital footprints-  These are things you post yourself. For example, videos you upload, things you tweet, fb statuses you post.
  2. Digital Shadows- These are the things OTHERS post about you. This could be of your online OR offline activity. For example, the old saying, What happens in Vegas…….. could now end up on YouTube.

Erik Qualman outlines 5 habits of people who demonstrate leadership online (STAMP):

S- Simple- Not everything we do we need to post.

T- True- Do  a vanity search. Envision your funeral. What would you want people to see?

A- Act- Most of the things we do online are throughput (tweets, answering emails, nothing to show for it).

– Focus on output: “What are you creating?”

M- Map – Have a destination in mind but allow your path to have some flexibility.

P- People- Surround yourself with the right people

Each one of us will take a different path. Qualman talks about being “flawsome”. This means that through our flaws we can showcase how awesome we are. However, from previous class discussions we have explored that true forgiveness is not common. Lastly, Qualman reminds us that the internet is a valuable tool. We need to make intelligent choices and sensor what we enter on the keyboard. How will you leave your best stamp? Reflect on Erik’s questions. Rather than seeking likes or follows, consider: How can I create something of value to others? How can I “Post it foraward”? What can I do for others? When we create genuine posts, the likes and follows will come.


Online Identity Vs. Real Identity- A challenge for authenticity

 People are generally very selective in what they post online about themselves. Even those who seem to have little filter at all rarely post things that depict themselves in a negative light. This is despite the fact they might have a whole lot to say about everyone else and their dog. I certainly don’t look at a bad photo of myself and think, hey, I should put that on Facebook. Likewise, a friend taking a great photo usually ends in… “send me that!”, then is posted on fb for all friends to see.

Looking at Facebook specifically, people use it to create a collection of (good) memories. Not often people post about the skeletons in their own closet. People post happy moments. At this point in my life, my Facebook has gone through a few stages. I remember friends posting party pics of their “best night ever” which turned into a whole lot of pictures of engagement rings followed by wedding photos. Now, my Facebook feeds is full of birth announcements and photos of my friends children. The Social Media and Social Anxiety Link by Dr. Brankica Georgievska, MD expresses that, “Social media pages are becoming more like fairy tales rather than personal stories, where people only put the very best thing that happens at the moment.” We create an online identity that portrays ourselves in the optimal light. We create our online identity based on how we want others to see us.

It is important to recognize when viewing others profiles that their lives are likely not as perfect as they seem. They too, are carefully constructing their online self. Constantly comparing to the lives of others can be draining and affect our long-term well-being. Dr. G states, “People are afraid to ruin their image they have created for themselves, people are reserved and find it awkward to talk face to face with strangers and even friends compared to conversing online.”

“It is the mismatch between our online identity and our real life that is causing much of today’s social anxiety. Having to accept our life as it is, and not as the fairy tale shown on Facebook, is a major cause for anxiety and depression”

– Dr. Georgievska

I recently came across an article online on Common Sense Media about

Selfie Improvement apps. Teens today are feeling the pressure to look perfect online and are using applications to brighten their teeth, remove blemishes and slim themselves before posting the perfect picture of themselves…. Which is no longer hardly them at all. The media has already been creating unrealistic ideals of beauty for years but now teens are setting impossible beauty standards for themselves.

The article offers the following suggestions to parents who see their children using these apps to “perfect” themselves:

·      Talk to your kids about the validation they get from their peers and how it should never be defined solely by their looks.

·      Ask your child, “What does it feel like when you change your photos like this?” Striving to look “perfect” can weigh heavily on us. We all have imperfections, and it’s high time we embrace them.

Selfies were meant to be quick snapshots that capture fun in the moment. Too often, teens and even adults find themselves taking multiple snaps because they don’t like the way they looked. Now, some are even making use of these apps to reconstruct themselves digitally to be closer to perfect.

We learn about protecting our online identity from others but it is important to protect ourselves from our hardest critic, ourselves! In creating a true identity for ourselves online we are modeling authenticity for our children. We can help them to realize it’s ok to be who we are (unedited and app free) and that each and every one of us is beautiful in our own way.


Are devices divisive? Using devices wisely in today’s digital world.

Photo Credit: Sizzo-grafy via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Sizzo-grafy via Compfight cc

We’ve all done it. We’re in a conversation with friends and someone says something we feel is slightly less than accurate and we pull out our phones to “fact check”. Google is at our fingertips and we have become a culture that requires immediate information. Sherry Turkle’s article, Stop Googling. Let’s Talk. explains the effects when we divide our attention. Even something as simple as having a screen on the table disrupts the flow of conversation.

Turkle states, “It’s what texting does to our conversations when we are together that’s the problem.”  She explains we restrict ourselves from having meaningful conversations when we let our devices interfere. Simply having the device between you, even if not using it,  is enough to disrupt conversation. It lights up on the table and we naturally glance down. I have not heard of the “rule of three” before but its sad that it needs to exist Turkle explains the rule of three as follows:  “In a conversation among five or six people at dinner, you have to check that three people are paying attention — heads up — before you give yourself permission to look down at your phone. So conversation proceeds, but with different people having their heads up at different times”.

People spend a lot of time on their devices. We keep in touch with friends by shooting texts back and fourth. Life gets busy and its easier than actually getting together. More commonly people opt to text than talk. Rather than picking up the phone people choose to text for many reasons. Some feel it is less of an interruption. It gives people time to think about their responses and respond at their leisure.  We Never Talk Anymore: The Problem with Text Messaging by Jeffrey Kluger expresses concern for our youth because they are  no longer developing the skills necessary to initiate and maintain a conversation. They also don’t get the practice to interpret non-verbal cues. Some youth shared that conversations make them uncomfortable because they simply don’t know how to communicate face-to-face.

Photo Credit: Pauls-Pictures via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Pauls-Pictures via Compfight cc

We commonly hear the phrase lately, “together, yet alone”. So frequently while out you see people on their phones; couples in restaurants that barely speak; Individuals that can barely put their phones down to pay for groceries. The photo on the left shows a mother and daughter out spending “quality time” together shopping, while glued to their personal devices. However, I wonder who took this picture? Did it have a purpose? or could these ladies victims of online shaming? These ladies may have had a great device-free day together and for one minute, mom may be making arrangements for transportation while her daughter returns a quick text. It could quickly be posted online and others will quickly form judgments with no background knowledge at all. You may have come across the post about the girls taking selfies at a game . The article, What you need to know about those selfie girls demonstrates the importance of viewing what we see online critically because things aren’t always what they seem.

Recently a story was featured on Global News, that highlighted an Instagram account that was created called “passenger shaming” where photos were posted of people doing undesirable behaviours on airplanes such as trimming toe nails, treating warts etc. The photos appear to be taken without the others knowledge. As of today #passengershaming has over 4000 posts. While I don’t endorse any of the behaviours posted on the account I am almost as disgusted at the people who posted them.  If the poster was so disturbed by the behavior, politely asking the person to stop would have been more helpful than posting it online. It seems like a cry for “likes”.

We really need to think about what we post online! What is the purpose? We need to teach our students about carefully selecting what they post but also need to model this ourselves. Jennifer Stewart Mitchell shared an excellent YouTube video created by Common Sense Media called oversharing. Think before you post peeps… no one cares what you had for breakfast.


Falling into Place: Our Final Project Plan

I’m excited to get started on our final project for #ECI832! While I have learned so much from my EADM classes it is a nice break from papers and a fun change of pace. It will be great to create some tools that we can use in our classroom right now. Branelle Zenuk and I have decided to create a Digital Citizenship unit. While we understand that it is important for this message and these skills to be taught on an ongoing basis we will create a ready-to-use resource that can be used to introduce digital citizenship in the classroom.

Our digital citizenship unit will be posted online. With consultation from our instructors we have decided to use WordPress as our platform. The unit will consist of approximately 8-10 lessons that draw on cross-curricular outcomes. We will create all the materials and evaluation tools to go with it. It will be geared towards middle years students! It would be really neat if there was another group out there in our class that did a similar project directed towards primary students! It’s never to early to start teaching digital citizenship! The sooner, the better prepared our students will be to navigate this digital world. Any takers?


Stop restricting, teach how to navigate through preparation

Tell a student they can't go there and they will. Prepare them for when they get there.

Tell a student they can’t go there and they will. Prepare them for when they get there.

In Losh and Jenkin’s article, Can Public Education Coexist with Participatory Culture they express obligations of institutions to promote responsible citizenship, respect for others, and a willingness to sometimes sacrifice immediate self-interest for the long-term common good. They suggest that laws and regulations that currently exist that act to shield or restrict students from viewing online content based on concerns about predators, bullying or distraction be challenged. They argue access to information and the learning the internet promotes far outweighs the potential risks that can be avoided with explicit teaching in the area of digital citizenship and critical thinking skills.

In many school divisions, this restriction on specific websites has affected the teacher’s also. In many cases teachers are unable to access the content they need. A research project done by Project New Media Literacies (NML) showed that this headache around teachers having to basically “hack” and find ways to show their two minute YouTube clip highly discouraged them from incorporated web-based materials. This block of access to many key platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and twitter where participatory learning takes place takes away from many meaningful learning opportunities. In addition to the list of websites that were blocked to restrict students (and teachers) many divisions utilize software that picks up on certain words that are deemed as inappropriate and blocks sites that are inappropriate. Losh and Jenkin’s shared an example of how this process of restricting information deemed as inappropriate has created a barrier for a meaningful learning experience. A whole school division was blocked access to almost all sites about Herman Melville because the title of his best known novel includes the word “dick”.

Losh and Jenkin stress that, “schools have a central role to play in connecting what takes place outside the classroom with the kinds of assessments and certifications that will create future educational, economic, civic, and creative opportunities for students. These opportunities connecting what students are learning outside of school with what happens within formal education have been described by Mimi Ito and her colleagues as “connected learning.” At their Connected Learning website, they explain how problems occur when there is a strong disconnect between formal education and learning outside school.” Furthermore they explain that, “Each time a teacher tells students that what they care about the most, what makes them curious and passionate outside of school, does not belong in the classroom, that teacher also delivers another message: What teachers care about and what is mandated by educational standards have little or nothing to do with learners’ activities once the they school bell rings.”

Losh and Jenkin offer the following suggestions for schools and educators:

  1. Use digital media to engage learners.
  2. Recognize the value of participatory culture/connected learning.
  3. Teach ethical standards and skills in critical judgment

The Google Play Project ran extensive interviews with youth about their online lives and found that students lack formal mentorship in this area. They pointed out that a newspaper committee has a staff advisor to help them with ethical issues, provides feedback and helps students with editing their writing. They then point out that many of our students are reaching far larger audiences through blogs, vlogs and social media yet receive little guidance from mature mentors on how to navigate their online world. As teachers we need to assist our youth in learning to take part in participatory culture. Web 2.0, educational policy tends to be restrictive. In an effort to ensure student safety it appear to limit student choices rather than provide them with the information required to be a responsible digital citizen. The Good Project was created at Harvard as a result of the Google Play studies. They have developed several tools for educators to teach students skills to navigate our digital world.

Henry Jenkin’s article, Confronting the challenges of participatory culture he discusses the importance of providing access to all students. It presented projects that have been created in areas of poverty to provide low income earners with access to the internet. However, he also explains the importance of not just dropping them off. People need to be taught how to be responsible digital citizens. Additionally he talked about the important of recognizing the shift from viewing the internet as a place for individual expression to all the possibilities for collaboration.

“Instead of focusing on gatekeeping… let’s focus on how school librarians can help young people interact with human mentors and peers as students learn to observe norms and respect boundaries.” Losh and Jenkins, 2012

Katrina Schwartz talks about trust and how it is so important for us to teach students to use the internet properly rather than restrict their access in her article titled Why trust is an important ingredient  I agree with this entirely. We need to teach our students in the classroom so they are prepared to deal with issues that may arise later on their own in their own lives. There needs to be a link between home and school. Losh and Jenkin’s would also agree. They stated, “Young people are not rendered safer when schools block access to these sites; instead, blocking ensures that many kids will be forced to confront online risks on their own. Many young people lack opportunities to learn how to use new media tools effectively and appropriately. Reliance on blocking sends the message that sites and tools important to students have little to nothing to contribute to intellectual pursuits.”

Passive learning is not effective. We need to find ways to engage learners by including their own interests. A new term that I came across in my reading was “Affinity spaces,” as James Paul Gee (2005) has labeled them, are critical sites of important kinds of exploration, experimentation, and play, where at least some young people are developing and deploying their own expertise in the service of their own passions and interests. These affinity spaces can be such a powerful thing and we need to use them to our advantage and there is many meaningful skills our students can acquire in these places. Creating a connected culture is crucial.

 YOUNG PEOPLE MAY NOT need adults snooping over their shoulders, but they certainly need adults helping to watch their backs. (Losh and Jenkins 2012)

Losh, E., & Jenkins, H. (2012). CAN PUBLIC EDUCATION COEXIST WITH PARTICIPATORY CULTURE? Knowledge Quest, 41(1), 16-21. Retrieved from