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.

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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.




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.