3 Cs – Collaboration, Citizenship, & Copyright

Citizenship is a core part of education.  With our changing learning landscape digital citizenship has taken its own place on the stage and warrants its own space in the curriculum.  It is one of the 6 ISTE Standards for Students and is the heart of COETAIL course 2.  The use of technology to enhance learning has become an ever increasing focus in my practice and COETAIL has really encouraged a reflective look at my practice.  One realisation is that I’ve spent considerable time thinking about the use of technology to promote creativity and innovation, as a vehicle to facilitate communication and collaboration, and as a research tool, but I have not given the same attention to aspects of Standard 5 – Digital Citizenship – Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behaviour.  And as this realisation has bubbled over the last 7 weeks of the course, I’ve seen others grapple with similar issues of recognising its importance but wondering how to be explicit in its integration into the curriculum.  This is in part how this final project started for me as a need to change my mindset to teaching aspects of digital citizenship proactively rather than reactively.  I began to realise that I was not arming my students with the information, skills, attitudes and mindset to live the life of a model digital citizen. One aspect of digital citizenship is the safe and legal practice of information.  It’s been my experience (and those I worked with on the final project) that many students reach the end of primary school without a proper understanding of copyright or citation and it was this commonality that drew us together.  For the final project, I teamed up with Angela, Leah, Rob on a project that stemmed from our personal experiences in our day to day teaching lives regarding the teaching of copyright.

Image by author
Image by author

And as the seeds were planted our project grew.   The core aim of our collaborative project was to inspire a whole school/primary school initiative to create guidelines and resources for age appropriate citation (including books websites, blogs, photos, youtube, tweets) and resources to support this aspect of digital citizenship in the classroom.  This project is all about setting teachers and students up for success.  As resources started to be created we realised we needed a place to document and share everything.  We created a website for both students and teachers to access and utilise.

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 12.53.18 PM

The resources created included posters to be accessed in the classroom by teachers and students.  They are in both printable and digital formats.  In addition, we thought it was important to support these resources with frameworks.  We created two UbD plans to support the use of the guidelines and resources.  Our initial UbD plan documents the thinking behind the project itself and the process we went through.  It can be used by other teachers/tech coaches/coordinators when implementing a school wide approach to copyright and citation.

The second UbD plan was developed to help teachers or a team of teachers integrate the use of the resources into a unit.

A big focus was making the content accessible to K-5 students.  Much of what we’d seen used
was too complex or text dense.  As I’ve been informing myself about copyright issues I realised how complicated it was.  I spent a long time studying the copyright flowchart created by Meryl Zeidenberg and Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano.  It is a great resource for teachers but overwhelming for young students.  This inspired us to create a flowchart suitable for elementary students.  And hence just another example of how one idea sparks others as we all share our content and ideas online.

Copyright Flowchart2 2
Image by Tracy Blair, Rob Langlands, Amanda McCloskey, Leah Bortolin

It was also important for us to connect our work to a wider focus which is overall citizenship by making connections to the IB PYP Learner Profile.  We added further resources to support the unit such as Visible Thinking routines and student and teacher assessment tools.  As well as using this website and resources ourselves, we hope that others will find it useful and provide us feedback. We are sure it can continue to grow and we really had to force ourselves to stop so we could wrap up our project.

This project was as much about being part of a professional learning network and global collaboration as it was about the content of our work (copyright and responsible use of information).  It was challenging to find a group initially as the steps I took to connect with others resulted in dead ends.  It reminded me of my childhood  PE days waiting to be picked by the two students selected as captain by the coach.  This first hand experience has developed my own skill set for finding connections and sparking collaboration.  The collaboration aspect was very rewarding. As well as needing tools to facilitate global collaboration, I’ve learned it’s important to have structures or systems in place to facilitate the work (like group agreements, agendas collaborative planning documents) just as I would in a school collaborative situation. Reflecting on the process has allowed me to think about what really worked and things I would do differently next time.

The benefits were immediate as we could use our different strengths. I found that we generated a lot of ideas; and new ideas arose as a result.  In fact we never stopped coming up with new ideas.  A strength of the group was the division of tasks, following time lines, replying promptly to comments and emails and being flexible with each others’ schedules.  What was challenging was working on our project at different times.  Sometimes I wanted to ask a quick question or seek feedback on work but had to wait.  It was good practice in patience, being organised and working ahead of schedules to leave plenty of time for discussions and reviewing our work. We used a variety of mediums to collaborate – email, collaborate planning document which had a lot of commenting during all stages of the project, and google hangout for face to face discussions.

Next time I would structure the shared planning document in a better way to record our ideas.  Here’s a short video of us using Google Hangout to plan and organise our work and shows us pulling our ideas together.  This was my first experience using Google Hangout.  Next time, I would use it more as I always felt more informed after the face to face conversations as ideas could be clarified right on the spot.




Empowering Our Students

Empowering Our Students

The internet is a powerful medium with vast potential.  Students have at their fingertips all they need to share their voice, ideas, projects, and work.  It’s a powerful tool because of its capacity to connect with many and varied people in a short period of time.  It’s more powerful than other mediums because of its two-way nature.  It also gives students a way to make an impact and spread global awareness.

As educators, I believe we have an important job in guiding and empowering students so they can take advantage of this tool.  If we want our students to make a positive impact in their world using technology (and without), we should be asking ourselves ‘What skills, attitudes, knowledge and understandings do students need to acquire in order to be able to do that?’ and then work towards providing an environment that supports those critical things needed. This question is no different if we were working towards a different end goal.  And the answer could be described by a school’s mission, values, and the curriculum. So essentially what I’m saying is that it is the child’s education (day to day, month to month, year to year) that empowers them to make a positive impact in their world.  That being the case, what we do in our classroom and how we spend our time with kids is critical.

Taking action and empowerment is not about technology, but technology certainly gives students a tool to accomplish change, take action and/or take charge.  How many of your students felt compelled to help our neighbours in Nepal this week?  Did they send emails asking others to support charities?, Ask to do a fundraiser, or Make a poster to create awareness? They have an innate desire to take action on matters that are important to them.

What is essential for this to happen is a learning environment where student can take ownership of what and how they learn, where through modelling and practice they become self directed learners who have multiple experiences of learning through authentic performance task.  Through their units of study, students can be exposed to multiple technological tools that can support students in sharing their learning in appropriate and authentic way.  When the time comes, they will have a toolbox to reach in to and find which tool best fits their goal.

flickr photo shared by jrhode under a  Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Stand back and look at the year and list all the tools that students have used and which students could then go on and use for other purposes when the need is there.  Are the tools they’ve been using varied, relevant and can be used for a range of purposes?  Go ahead and make a list.

Photo by author.
Photo by author.

I know I have hit the right mark in my class when kids come to school asking if they can share something they’ve made at home after being exposed or taught something at school, or when they start using tools for different purposes.  This happened last week after we’d had a couple of sessions using TurtleArt to explore the concept of angles in regular polygons.  Through these two sessions students learned how to program the turtle to make a polygon and figure out the relationship between the number of sides of a polygon and the angle needed to turn the turtle. TurtleArt was introduced to me last year by Gary Stager who was visiting our school.  He ran this session with the support of our Tech Coach.  This year I felt confident to use it in my geometry unit myself.  I got an email that night from my student asking if she could share a project she created that night at home.  The next day she came to school excited to share.

Screenshot by author.
Screenshot by author.

She had taken the skills and knowledge from class and applied it to a totally new project and created a piece of art.  Of course, the ripple effect was the fascinating to watch as others started to think about what they could do with the tool.  It’s a mindset or natural curiosity really and we want to promote that in our classrooms.  We want students to wonder to themselves ‘I wonder how else I could use these skills I have.’  It’s only a matter of time that they start applying the skills to things that matter to them – friendship, social issues, solving problems.

Also, last month, a couple of my students had been working together on an independent project in their spare time, staying in for recess, using 5 minutes here and there.  I didn’t pay it much attention, I just new it was busy and exciting work for them and they always went into a small closed room off our learning space so as not to disturb others (I work in an open learning environment).  A few days later, they were ready and asked if they could share during the morning meeting.  It was to my surprise and delight that they’d created a musical instrument out of various materials and constructed a piece of music with it.  They’d planned and rehearsed their performance and then delivered it in such a way that audience participation was encouraged.  So as well as having tools to work with, another essential item is time.  Kids need time to explore their new skills, knowledge, understandings and follow their passions.

Photo by author.
Photo by author.

This week ask your kids this question:  ‘What do you want to do with your computer?’  And listen to what they say.  Do they say, I want to make a presentation, play a game, write a report, make an infographic.  Behind all of these tools or software I bet there is a deeper desire.  Kids may be conscious or unconscious of this and you can help uncover their real desire to use their computer.  Then ask them, ‘What do you really want to do?’  Probe deeper for the underlying desire they have.  Do they want to connect with like minded kids, spread their work to a larger audience, or document their thinking  This image created by Bill Ferriter really resonated with me when I came across it.  It made me stop and think about some of the conversations I have with my students about the use of technology.

flickr photo shared by William M Ferriter under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

We know there is a lot of things kids can do with technology, but let’s make sure the learning environments that they spend their time in empowers, promotes, supports the potential of technology.  Read Svitak Adora’s article for ideas around supporting students: Five Ways to Empower Students.



Svitak, Adora. “Five Ways to Empower Students.” Edutopia, 8 Feb. 2012. Web. 2 May 2015.


Creating a Spotlight on Digital Citizenship

Creating a Spotlight on Digital Citizenship

I feel out of the 6 ISTE standards #5 Digital Citizenship does not get the ‘spotlight’ or the same amount of ‘air time’ compared to the others. There may be an underlying assumption that we are all doing it in through conversations in our class on an as needed basis. But I’m beginning to believe that this is not enough, not by a long shot.  Like other areas we teach, it deserves intentional, proactive planning. Of course there is always opportunities for on the spot learning moments.  Should digital citizenship get equal recognition as the standards such as creativity and innovation?  Or perhaps it is not important to compare, but at least ensure all standards get the attention they need.

Photo Source

 As I was reading around the topic of Digital Citizenship a couple of points kept resonating with me. Firstly, the question  “Do we have a common language?”   and secondly empathy. We know that having a common language in other areas of school can have an impact on student learning.  For example, when a school adopts a common language around reading we see a higher level of articulation of the topic.  Same with writing.  Building a metalanguage helps us to have deeper conversation with our writers. I do agree that at the heart of Digital Citizenship lies empathy as many of the issues that arise connected to Digital Citizenship can be addressed through the lens of empathy.  For example:  How would the owner feel if I used his work? How would student X feel if I spread her secret?

In “Bullying” Has Little Resonance with TeenagersDanah Boyd describes a case study on bullying and after uncovering the layers she finds empathy to be at the heart of it.  One of the most powerful points she makes is

 “We need interventions that focus on building empathy, identifying escalation, and techniques for stopping the cycles of abuse. We need to create environments where young people don’t get validated for negative attention and where they don’t see relationship drama as part of normal adult life.” by Danah Boyd

I’d like to make digital citizenship a part of our school culture and embed it within existing structures.  For example, I work in a PYP school.  Within that framework are the Learner Profiles and Attitudes.  These are the key attributes that we aspire to for our students.  That’s a great foundation to build on.  One of these attitudes is Empathy.  Students already have a good understanding of what that is as they’ve been exposed to it over the years.  It is part of our common language. I’m ready to jump right in and what’s great is there are plenty of resources online to use as a starting point especially from commonsense media and creative commons. In fact, there is so much it is a little overwhelming.  What’s the best way? Which is the best resource?  Given it is April and I have 8 weeks left with these kiddos I’m going with the mindset that whatever we do over the next 8 weeks will be a start.  I’ll develop a more systematic and integrated plan for next year.  Also, these next weeks will be great to try out the resources available and get feedback from the kids.  I’m going to start exploring what’s out there. I’ve just found that Brainpop has some resources too which may be appealing to elementary aged students.  But for tomorrow, I plan to start with this little gem.  I think this will be great to engage my 9-10 years old.

As I send these kids into the summer holidays, no doubt some of which will be online, and into fifth grade, I think I can add some tools to their tool box and get them thinking about their digital life.  If nothing else, we can start getting to the heart of our digital life through exploring and maintaining an open dialogue about empathy and building a  common language.

What’s your favorite resource that you’ve used recently to address an aspect of digital citizenship? 

Copyright – Arming our students with the right information

I’ve spent the last two days in a conference.  The keynote speakers spoke well about their areas of expertise and had well designed presentations using visuals creatively to support their messages.  But I did not see one photo credit.  While I could tell some photos were probably their own, many were not. This got me thinking, are the adults in the lives of our students providing the models and support needed in this changing landscape of copyright usage?

Part of being a responsible citizen is not taking from others.  Students learn this value from a very young age.  They follow their parents around the shops, watching them make purchases and making payments for the things they buy – a range of products:  books, food, petrol.  They might start to see their parents also shopping online including digital books and music.  This is where it starts to merge into digital citizenship because it is now a digital platform; however, the idea is the same.  We should purchase the things that others make and we want.

Infographic created by Meryl Zeidenberg and Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

Generally, kids easily internalize this aspect of being a responsible citizen.  But now the lines are blurry as online content is very accessible.  It may not be obvious that at the other end there was a creator and therefore a owner to the product (image, ideas, words).  Therefore I believe we have an important job to do from the moment kids walk into our classrooms and school to model authentically how we go about using, or if needed, purchasing content, products, services, and ideas.  It should be as transparent as a child walking into the supermarket with a parent, selecting some items and making the purchase. However, it’s clear from the length of the flowchart created by the folks of LangWitches about the use of material that it is not that simple.

Students need to be armed with the right type and amount of information so they continue to be innovative and creative and not too heavily restricted.  To help balance the copyright dilemma I like to reflect on the words of Austin Kleon in his talk ‘Steal Like an Artist’ and his book titled Steal Like an Artist.  I think it provides a balancing perspective to the Copyright issue.


A feature of elementary teaching is to look at the work of others for inspiration and ideas.  In art lessons, kids have been studying Eric Carle and his art work and stories for years and subsequently creating their own Eric Carle inspired pieces.  Similarly, students in my class get inspired to write poetry from reading the works of others, mimicking their style.  Students enjoy creating their own poem based on the work of Margaret Wise Brown’s book titled The Important Book.   We are always sure to give credit to the author letting others know our work has been inspired by hers.

I was also encouraged to read the website ‘Teaching Copyright’ which advocates for teaching about copyright issues in a balanced way.  To only present one side is doing a disservice to students.  Just as we arm ourselves with information to make decisions about using content, we too must help students.

“This misinformation is harmful, because it discourages kids and teens from following their natural inclination to be innovative and inquisitive. The innovators, artists and voters of tomorrow need to know that copyright law restricts many activities but also permits many others” state the folks from the Teaching Copyright website.  I agree that the need accurate and balanced information that will allow them to work confidently when using and creating content.


Private Eyes are Watching You

Hall and Oates sing:

“Private Eyes
They’re watching you
They see your every move”



I’ve been wondering why it has taken me so long to write this blog post about privacy, until it dawned on me the irony of the post. It is the same reason it has taken me so long to start blogging. It’s because I’m a very private person. It is only due to the course requirements that I have started blogging. Privacy is important to me. Unlike a lot of friends, I hardly ever kept a diary or a journal throughout my life. Everything was just stored safely in my mind and memories. The ageing process has revealed that this is not the most reliable storage unit, and perhaps it would’ve been wise to record the anecdotes of my life.

Internet privacy is a kind of privacy and comes with its own characteristics. To truly maximize the full benefits of living in a connected world, I believe a different mindset to privacy needs to be adopted. Like most new things, you need to educate yourself about it so you can make informed choices and decisions and be comfortable with those choices. It’s important to be balanced. I’ve been a user of Facebook for many years now. It has been an important tool in my life to stay connected with family back home and with all my friends living around the world. Every one of my Facebook friends is someone I know personally. We’ve meet in person. A lot of my friends are current or past colleagues from international schools. Every year, when new teachers come to the school or when I move to a new school, my Friends increases. It’s a great way to share the social part of our international life – where we are holidaying, or an awesome night out at a new restaurant that others might want to try, etc.

However, I’m fully aware that many of my colleague-Facebook friends colleagues could potentially one day be in an administration role or be sitting across the table from me at the recruitment fair. I feel totally comfortable that my online Facebook life represents the well rounded, family orientated, travel loving teacher they know in real life. However, I often get a chill when friends post strong personal views on a topic, or photos that I wouldn’t personally share. I don’t have a problem with what they are doing, but the fact is that there is a connection between them and me. I have had a long standing rule about Facebook  –  Don’t accept friends request from students. When I first started using Facebook I developed this rule. I didn’t know why I made this rule. My gut just told me. It just didn’t feel right. As an elementary teacher, I don’t get many friend request from current students. But a couple of years later when they start using social media the requests come in. Do I have a burning desire to know how my students succeed in life? What careers they choose? When they get married and start their own families? YES, but do I want to see all that goes on in their life throughout their teenage years when they are experimenting with life choices – NO. So privacy is a trade off.

If you want to take advantage of the many features of using online resources, there will be some aspects of privacy that will need to be relaxed. Take Flipboard for example. It is a wonderful tool. It has a Privacy Policy. It clearly states what information it collects and how it is used. Flipboard, and other apps like it, are designed to collect information to enhance how it works. It is the customisation piece that we appreciate.

It’s important to teach kids about privacy and help them understand how the internet works. For example, it is useful to teach them why pop up ads appear and how to deal with it.  Another important teaching point is password protection.  However, how much restriction or protection you use can also be determined by country laws, school rules, and family values.  Everyone has their own comfort level.  Julia Agwin documents the measures she takes to protect and teach her children about internet safety, including the use of fake names, rules about the use of google and search engines, encryption and password protection.  Others will have a more measured approach, but the point is to inform yourself and make your own decisions.

To finish, take some time to listen to Juan Enriquez compare our online life with tattoos.  He calls them electronic tattoos and gives 5 lessons to consider when it comes to our electronic tattoos.[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu1C-oBdsMM[/youtube]

Highlighting Digital Footprints in an Elementary Setting

Just like your credit rating (or credit score) has the potential to open and close doors and have a serious impact on your life, so too does your digital footprint.  The ideas and discussions around digital footprints really captured my attention this week as I reflected on my own footprint both passive and active.  Then I started to move my thoughts to my students and the importance of teaching them about their digital footprint.  While we have regular conversations about our online safety and privacy, thinking about digital footprint is much broader than that.

footprintPhoto Credit: Katelyn Kenderdine via Compfightcc

As a cheerleader of my students, I’m always encouraging students to broaden their audience by using the internet to publish their work online. I want them to extend their audience beyond me and their immediate peers as I believe they have much to share.  In doing so I’ve been unknowingly increasing their digital footprint without having conversations about what it is and how we can manage it.

 So, I’m really thinking about what digital footprint means to elementary students.  They as yet do not have social media accounts (like Twitter or Facebook), but my students do have an active online life through blogging and commenting, collaborative projects, online games, subscriptions to accounts, researching, e-Portfolios, and creating digital media projects.  A lot of resources and discussions on digital footprint out there are really focusing on internet safety and privacy or are more geared towards teens.  But I want to look at this from a branding point of view and start conversations and develop some key understanding about the larger topic of digital footprints with my students, because it’s not all bad.  Creating the ‘right’ digital footprint can open doors, connect you with the right people, and get yourself heard.  I like the idea of starting conversations with our younger students and being proactive about their digital footprint. These will form the foundation of their thinking and provide a strong base on which to make digital decisions throughout their life.

One way to get the conversation started is to use Daniel Pink’s question ‘What is your sentence?


This will get them thinking about what image they have for themselves and is it portrayed or perceived by others. How great would it be for kids to be involved in periodic reflections about their digital image throughout their life and look to see how their values and persona changes. How great would it be for students to track their sentence over time?  What was my sentence when I was 9? 14? 19?

In elementary school, we devote significant time to knowing ourselves as learners.  If you work in an IB PYP school, you will hear students describe themselves with the learner profile and attributes.  How great to extend this and incorporate this in conversations about their digital footprint.  If a student has described them self as a knowledgeable, empathetic inquirer then they can ask if their digital presence reflects this.  Or the reverse; ask students to look at some of their online work and ask what learner profile or attributes are reflected in their work.

Here’s another good place to start the conversation:


I also think it is powerful to do some analysis of the footprint of others.  We can use the question “What does their online presence say about them?”  For example, if we googled Super Awesome Sylvia we’d come to her webpage and other sites.  Have kids explore her sites and content and pose the question ‘How about the digital footprint of Sylvia?  What does her online presence say about her?

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You’ll notice you have to search a bit to find her name.  Mostly she is known as Super Awesome Sylvia, but with a bit of looking around you can find her full name.  This is an interesting discussion in itself to have with students.

I’m very mindful of presenting a balanced view of digital footprint to students.  One which is relevant and appropriate to the age of my students (9 – 10 year olds).  We are educating not scaring.  So I’ve been searching for elementary appropriate material to use.  There’s not a ton but enough to get started.  I like the questions posed in this video:[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwFE25f50P4[/youtube]  I like the questions: Is it true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind?  as these are important questions to ask not only in a digital context, but in our daily actions.

So rather than scare kids into an appropriate digital footprint, let’s empower students with skills, knowledge and attitudes through authentic and relevant discussions and experiences to building a positive digital footprint that reflects who they are.