My True North #digcitsummit #DigCitSummitUK

Do something today that your future self will thank you for.

True North
At a very young age, I learned that ‘True North’ is the ultimate goal in life. Finding True North is essential for accurate navigation both literally and figuratively. In this journey called life, we often find ourselves unsure which path or decision to take and/or make. Finding our ‘True North’ enables us to stay the course and be true to our core values.

My Uncle Ron, a Marine and Boston firefighter reinforced True North by living the motto, “It’s not what you do; it’s what you are willing to do.” This is my core. This is my True North and everything I stand for and believe.

Not surprisingly, this is also the core of the Digital Citizenship Summit which just hosted the inaugural national conference in focused exclusively on digital citizenship. As citizens of today’s networked world, digcitsummit has put digital citizenship before technology and has highlighted the positive and practical solutions towards being SAFE, ETHICAL and SAVVY.

The speakers, attendees and volunteers we attracted came because they wanted to be a part of this new paradigm. Our True North was created because of the people involved which included all stakeholders: educators, students, administrators, parents, media specialists and librarians, industry and business leaders, counselors, coaches, community members, etc.  

What was the one common link?  Everyone who helped make digcitsummit the #1 national trend on Twitter that day was leading by example on what it truly means to think and act at a local, global and digital level simultaneously.   Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.18.54 PM

As we continue to build upon the foundation already created and established at the digcitsummit, True North will continue to lead the way and it will continue to set us apart from other conferences. 

Over the last five weeks, I’ve met some incredibly passionate people who were drawn to what we have created. As the digcitsummit began with a tweet, so did the planning for our first international #DigCitSummitUK. One tweet and a Skype call with William Jenkins has led to an overwhelming international response. It is clear that the digcitsummit has struck a nerve and is a universal need around the world.Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 2.13.23 PM


As I reflect on True North, I want to acknowledge two of the best decisions I’ve made in 2015 – both were the results of tweets with my digcitsummit co-founder, David R. Polgar and the impetus and genius behind the #DigCitSummitUK, my friend and colleague, William Jenkins. Thank you both for being part of my True North.

We hope you will join us on 23 January 2016 at Bournemouth University. For more information, please follow @digcitsummit and register for updates at Seats are limited, so reserve your tickets now.



A letter to my son on Father’s Day

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 11.49.59 AMThis post was published in 2011, but when I went to look for it today — it was gone. How did I accidentally delete it? Thanks to some really incredible tech support, I was able to salvage it by copying and pasting the original.

So, although it is not Father’s Day, it is the perfect time to be reflective and to give thanks.

The Original Letter
my-guy3One day you will be a Dad.  This letter is meant to be read when you are celebrating your first Father’s Day.  You’ll have a life full of wonderful opportunities to learn firsthand from your own Dad what it means to be a committed husband, father and family man and for this I’m so very grateful.

But today, I’m going to take a moment to share some lessons from your Granddad, my father that you never met and only know through pictures and stories. Your Granddad’s life was all about teaching love in subtle ways, in bold ways. Nothing was an inconvenience. In fact, he would always say, “If there’s love, there’s no burden. If there’s a burden, it’s loved.” Granddad loved with all of his being. Nothing was more important than family to Granddad. Nothing.

There is nothing quite like a father/daughter relationship and my hope is that you will experience it one day. One day, I hope you get to hold your daughter in your arms and know exactly why I’m sharing my hope and wishes with you today.

My hopes for you…

  • You get to say prayers by your daughter’s bedside (even when she’s in her late 20′s).
  • Your daughter wears your shoes around the house when she’s little and waits for you at the front door until you come home. And later in her life, she wears your top coat when she’s in college.
  • You dance with your daughter all the time and she looks forward to more dances.
  • You make up lyrics to songs and sing all the time and make sure you sing Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra when she’s a baby; it will always be her favorite lullaby (I sang it to you).
  • You learn the craft of storytelling and weave the very best stories EVER. She’ll remember every good night story and wish she could hear the story of the Little Match Girl one more time.
  • Bring her to Fenway Park often and she’ll know all about tradition, loyalty and magic her entire life.
  • Recognize abilities not disabilities within people. Play Santa for children with severe special needs and bring her with you because she’ll witness respect and empathy firsthand.
  • Drive her and her friends any and everywhere and wait patiently when she is the last one to leave the school dance and never complain.
  • Write her handwritten notes and letters everyday because she’ll save them all 
  • Intimidate boys when they start calling and coming over to your house. Grill them, judge their handshakes and ask them what DNA stands for while you walk them to the car. As they drive away, write down the license plate and point to your watch as a reminder of her curfew. She’ll appear embarrassed, but deep down she’ll love it and be so proud that you are her Dad!
  • Drive in snowstorms and blizzards – do whatever it takes to follow through on your word. If you say you’re going to be there, be there. She’ll remember that you never missed anything important in her life and that you were always there.
  • Model what it means to love her mother because years later she’ll realize how much that meant when she becomes a mother.
  • Character is what you do when no one is looking. Reputation is what you do when people are watching. Focus on your character.
  • Live your life with respect and integrity because your daughter will notice.
  • And most importantly, love with all of your being.

My wish-list for you could go on and on. Just remember to see the best in people, take in stray animals, make time for those you love, always be a good listener, have an infectious laugh, be loyal and true and always help those in need because she will notice and cherish every moment with you. I learned so much from my Dad and miss him every single day, but he lives on through me and now through you.  Passing on his love and legacy to you is one of the best gifts I could give you.


Connected Educator Appreciation Day #CEduAD

5In preparation for #CyberMonday, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to count my lucky stars and thank my amazing PLN!

For me, my journey as a connected educator began in a third grade classroom.  One of my graduate students, Tracy Mercier invited me to participate in a technology event that her students had organized. It must have been sometime in 2009 when her third graders with netbooks knew more about being socially responsible online than I did. It was, in fact, the first time I was aware that I was being Googled and I held my breath as the third graders checked out my digital footprint. I thought to myself if these third graders are in my classroom one day, how will I be able to meet their needs as connected students?

And so my journey began with students — my own graduate student and her third graders. What a fantastic introduction to the world of connected learning.

Tomorrow, I hope you will share your story and recognize and thank the connected educators in your life using the #CEduAD hashtag!

In the spirit of giving, I also wonder what we can give back and pay forward to those connected educators who give so much of themselves freely and without hesitation to their students, colleagues, and the profession as a whole?

I’ll end with my one of my favorite teaching quotes from the Prince of Tides.  The main character, Tom is a high school English teacher and football coach and towards the end of the book, his sister accuses him of being a failure. She says, “You sold yourself short. You could’ve been more than a teacher and a coach.” To which Tom replies: “Listen to me. There’s no word in the English language I revere more than teacher. None. My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher and it always has. I’ve honored myself and the entire family by becoming one.”

Every time, I read that passage I become ten feet tall, my heart starts pumping, my shoulders go back and I’m standing proud — I am a teacher and better yet, I’m a connected educator!

Please pay it forward tomorrow, reflect on your own journey, and let all the connected educators in your life know how much they mean to you, our students and profession! #CEduAD



Planning the 1st International #DigCitSummit in Scotland #DigCitSummitUK

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.18.54 PMAlmost two months ago, the Digital Citizenship Summit, #DigCitSummit was the #1 national trend on Twitter. How did we get it to trend? Easy. We created an event that people wanted to attend and tweet about.

We struck a nerve that day. Both our live and virtual audiences were actively engaged and interested in collaborating and networking around the concepts of being safe, ethical and savvy. It was the start of the #DigCitSummit revolution — #bethedigitalchange.

#Since our event on October 3rd, I’ve tweeted, emailed, voxed and skyped with numerous people about bringing the #DigCitSummit to a variety of different locations.

Last week, on a train to Washington, D.C. to attend FOSI, I had a Skype call with William Jenkins and the idea of #DigCitSummitUK became a reality. Planning began immediately over our hour plus Skype: Digital Citizenship Summit UK and DigCitSummitUK: Going Live. The best part of the planning since that Skype call? William has not made one single phone call to make this a reality. Nope, not one. As all the signs were suggesting — the days of cold calling are dead.

In less than a fortnight, we have created quite a stir on Twitter, as well as a list of possible speakers and sponsors. The location has been decided and #DigCitSummitUK will be hosted at Larbert High School in Stenhousemuir, Scotland sometime in January/February 2016. We are close to announcing a date in between two technology events in the UK — BETT and the Learning Technologies Conference.

As we continue to plan for the 1st international #DigCitSummit, please help us get the word out, generate interest and create a buzz in the social media world. Let’s get #DigCitSummitUK trending before the event even happens!

And…stay tuned…more to announce in the weeks to come, but to get a better understanding of how William is making this happen, please read There’s No App for Patience: Good Things Come to Those who Hustle While They Wait.




How did you celebrate #DigCitWeek?

How did you celebrate #DigCitWeek? In many ways, it was just like every other week for me since I am committed to embedding digital citizenship into everything I do and teach.

Some of my highlights included collaborating with my dear friend and colleague, Justin McGlamery on an activity that required no devices. Focusing on real face time (not virtual FaceTime), our two classes posted their status updates on sticky notes and placed them on their own personal “wall” — partners read the status out loud and responded with a different colored sticky note.  The students rotated and mingled with each other as the lesson highlighted, “If you can’t say it to my face — don’t say it on my wall.”  Powerful lesson that has had me thinking all week about how we need to help our students learn how to humanize the person next to them, as well as across the screen.

I had the privilege to guest moderate #pisdedchat this week. Best part? Talking digital citizenship with some really passionate educators! The hour flew by and my wheels are still spinning with ideas for future collaborative #digcit projects! If you missed the chat, here’s the archive.

I also hosted a webinar through ISTE — Student Voice in Digital Citizenship: A Project Based Learning Approach. I shared the collaborative project, iCitizen Project that really launched me into ensuring that student voice is leading the way when it comes to digital citizenship. I also shared high school senior, Timmy Sullivan’s presentation from the 1st National Digital Citizenship Summit and was ecstatic to hear how many ISTE members want to bring the Summit to their state and communities! (We are busy working on our 2016 location for our 2nd Annual National Digital Citizenship Summit now and hope to make an official announcement in a few weeks).

Another highlight was when my #FYS15 students met our middle school mentees from Grace Academy in Hartford. Both classes read Wonder by R.J. Palacio and will be creating Public Service Announcements on empathy and kindness this semester.

I can only hope that #DigCitWeek has inspired others to keep the momentum going. Our students need us to create space for them to explore citizenship in a digital age.


*Loved following Lady Gaga and#EmotionRevolution today and I want to continue exploring #KinderBraverSchools #YouAreFlawless in my #FYS15 course next week!


Students are the Solution at #DigCitSummit



#digcitsummit student speaker Timmy Sullivan

As I reflect on the 1st Digital Citizenship Summit this past weekend, my heart is full.

My favorite part of the Summit was the presence and voice of students. The only permanent solution to changing school climate, addressing bullying/cyberbullying and learning how to humanize the person next to you, as well as across the screen is more student voice.

We need more students like Timmy Sullivan, our invited high school speaker from Burlington High School in Massachusetts. His session was packed as he shared the need for more student voice in personalizing learning. His impressive online presence is a reflection of both his choices and character which further exemplifies what it means to be the same person both on and offline.

How do we get more student voice in our classrooms?

  1. We start early and often. We embed digital citizenship into everything we do both online and offline.
  2. We model and teach empathy in everything we do, in every classroom, both in and out of the classroom.
  3. We encourage our students to do digital citizenship – not just read or write about it.

Our students are the solution. Engage them in this critical conversation.

on stage

My son sharing closing remarks #digcitsummit

How will we get more students like Timmy Sullivan in our classrooms and in our communities? More student voice. We need to begin this conversation before devices are in the hands of our toddlers. We need to have our elementary aged students, like my son who joined me on stage for the closing remarks do digital citizenship and experience what empathy kindness and global collaboration looks like through projects like blogging, Global Read Aloud, Mystery Skype, etc.

If we start with our youngest learners, we will model best practices and will make digital citizenship a verb. As a result, we will help produce socially responsible, ethical and savvy students who think and act at a local, global and digital level simultaneously – like Timmy Sullivan and my son and all students – everywhere.

*A HUGE thank you to my current and former students who helped plan, volunteer and present at the Summit! You are why I do what I do! #FYS15 #ed536 #ed570

*Some of my other favorite examples of students “doing” digital citizenship: iCitizen Project and the iConstitution, for students by students.

Periscope + EdcampCT = Great Discussion on Social Media in Education with Special Guests Elephant and Piggie


Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 8.58.33 PMThis week at EdcampCT, I had an opportunity to model the app Periscope with my colleague Judy ArztPeriscope helps you explore the world through someone else’s eyes (and device). Judy and I decided to model the app during our session on social media in education. We had our live audience in Connecticut, as well as a global audience via Periscope.
Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 9.14.40 PM

When planning our Periscope, I decided to bring some of my Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. I thought it was the perfect analogy for social media in our schools today. We all know the Piggie in our school. Piggie is the educator who is already on board and excited. Piggie in the educational world is definitely a connected educator (and an Edcamp groupie, for sure). Unfortunately, we all know Gerald the Elephant in our schools too. Gerald is fearful, full of gloom and doom and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Gerald is afraid of social media and is the educator who is not on board and is perhaps rolling their eyes as Piggie shares her excitement over all the awesome things she learned at EdcampCT. The good news is that Piggie, by the end of the story is always able to win Gerald over. It is my hope, that as we start this new school year, we are just like Piggie and win over all the Geralds in our schools and communities.

FullSizeRenderSince our session at Edcamp, I’ve been thinking a lot about Elephant and Piggie. For fun, I decided to write my own adaptation of Elephant and Piggie. My version is titled, We are Going 1:1! Social Media in Schools. The image is an original, so I would be following proper copyright (and modeling good digital citizenship too!)

Piggie: [Excitement in voice] We are going 1:1!
Elephant: [Panic in voice] WE ARE GOING 1:1?!?
Piggie: Yes Gerald, we are going 1:1! We are bringing social media into every classroom!
Elephant: [Confusion in voice] Piggie, what is 1:1?
Piggie: [Excitement in voice] 1:1 means that everyone has access! Everyone will be able to connect and collaborate with the world.
Elephant: [Panic in voice] The world?!? How will we keep all of our students safe if we don’t have blocks and bans in place?
Piggie: We’ll embed digital citizenship into the curriculum!
Elephant: [Confusion in voice] What’s digital citizenship?
Piggie: Digital citizenship helps students be safe, aware, global and socially responsible both on and offline.

Piggie shows Gerald her device.

Elephant: [Concern in voice] Piggie, won’t the students be distracted with all these devices? How will they pay attention in school?  I don’t think the teachers will like this at all.
Piggie: Gerald, social media is just another tool. It will help the teachers break down classroom walls and bring the world inside the classroom.
Elephant: [Panic in voice] They are going to break down the school walls? That is vandalism. This is not a good idea – not a good idea at all Piggie.
Piggie: Gerald, the school walls will not literally be knocked down.
Elephant: They won’t?
Piggie: No, they won’t. The devices like this one here [motions to the device in her hand] will help the teachers and students connect and collaborate with other classrooms around the world.
Elephant: [Confusion in voice] What will this look like?
Piggie: [Excitement in voice] Teachers and students will be able to use social media tools like Periscope, Google, Skype, Blab, Twitter and lots of other apps to learn together.
Elephant: How will these social media tools help them learn together?
Piggie: [Excitement in voice] The sky is the limit, Gerald. They can blog and get comments from other students and classrooms around the world, participate in Genius Hour, learn through Makerspaces and 3-D printers, participate in global projects like Mystery Skype, Global Read Aloud, Connected Educator Month, Dot Day, Hour of Code, and so much more.
Elephant: [Excitement in voice] Piggie, this is incredible! All these social media tools will provide ample opportunities for all students!
Elephant & Piggie: Yay! We are going 1:1! We are bringing social media into every classroom!

The next day.

digcitsummit logoElephant: Piggie, I was wondering, how schools will provide specific professional development on digital citizenship?
Piggie: Administrators, teachers, school counselors, library media specialists, students and parents will buy blocks of tickets to attend the Digital Citizenship Summit on October 3rd in Connecticut!
Elephant: What will they learn at the all day Digital Citizenship Summit?
Piggie: A lot, Gerald! The #digcitsummit is not to be missed! The all day event has national experts speaking about how to embed empathy and kindness early and often, digital etiquette, cyber ethics and law, issues surrounding privacy, how to parent in the digital age, digital literacy, copyright issues, resources to combat cyberbullying and promote a positive school climate, social media optimization for students, empowering educators by creating 1:1 learning environments, technology addiction and so much more.
Elephant: Where can I find more information and buy tickets?
Piggie: Just go to and follow the blog for updates and you can buy your tickets here: or call the ticket office at 860.231.5555. Gerald, also follow @Digcit1 on Twitter for updates too.
Elephant: I can’t wait to go to the Digital Citizenship Summit to learn all about digital citizenship!

Hope to see you on 10/3 for another great day of learning at the #digcitsummit!

*For more information on our #EdcampCT session on Periscope, check out this post by Judy Arzt: School Media in Schools, Why Not?

*Watch our Periscope session, Role of Social Media in Schools on Katch.

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