Leading With Digital Citizenship: Let’s Break The Internet With Kindness

Although digital citizenship is not a new term or concept, the stories we generally hear tend to focus on safety and what our students should avoid.  To me, digital citizenship is everyone’s responsibility and we need to carve out time and space for our students to actively do it.  We need to switch the focus and highlight the positive ways our students are using social media.  The more student examples we can share on what to encourage (instead of avoid), will help our students practice being safe, savvy and ethical.

Personally, I’m tired of reading scare-tactic posts on how students are using social media in inappropriate ways.  After seeing this post, 8 Ways Kids Are Using Instagram to Bully on my digital citizenship (#digcit) Twitter feed, I had had enough of all the negative stories and I decided to flip the script and ask students to show us all the positive ways they use social media.

Let's Break the Internet with Kindness (1)Why aren’t the stories about the students I know and work with or the classrooms I follow on Twitter trending?  Why don’t these stories make national headlines?  Why does the media sensationalize the negative stories?  Determined to break the Internet with kindness, I tweeted out my challenge asking students to tell a different story.

The tweet got a lot of positive reaction and two members of my PLN took me up on my challenge and blogged about their experience.  High school history teacher, Rachel Murat who also teaches a digital citizenship course had her high school students use the opportunity to examine how Students Spread Happiness to Combat Haters and Trolls. The students examined how to combat trolls and haters and created videos like Passing on Positivity.

My #digcit co-moderator and Mobile Learning Coach, Jennifer Scheffer had her @BHSHelpDesk students reflect on the positive ways they use social media, 12 Students Speak Out About Digital Citizenship.  The big take-away is negativity breeds negativity and positivity breeds positivity.  High school senior and Digital Citizenship Summit speaker, Timmy Sullivan shared how he uses social media:

Clearly my experience leveraging social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, my blog) is taboo. But – dare I question the status quo again – why does it have to be? If we collectively divorce from the rhetoric of social media’s explicitly harmful nature, then we embrace the challenge to promote positive social media use in schools. Students can learn to leverage Twitter to build a global community of learners, use YouTube to share their content, connect with professionals via LinkedIn, and assert their voice through blogging. Through education, demonstration, and proactive conversation we can abolish cyber bullying- but we must first abolish our negative mentality.

My hope is that all students, everywhere have opportunities to go beyond just talking about digital citizenship and have time to “do” and create positive solutions just like the students in Rachel and Jennifer’s classrooms. Instead of disengagement and fear, we need to promote empowerment.  We need to create opportunities for our students to engage differently in a safe, savvy, and ethical manner and this needs to start early.  Our youngest students need to use technology to connect and collaborate with an authentic global audience.

In order to improve online (and offline) culture and create safe, savvy and ethical “digital citizens,” we need to actively engage students by embedding digital citizenship into our everyday curriculum.

By not teaching digital citizenship in schools, we are also denying the opportunity to empower students to think and act at a local, global and digital level simultaneously. When we help our students positively change their local community (school, neighborhood, town, state, region), we help change other communities in the process.

Let’s make digital citizenship a verb and help our students bridge the physical gap between communities by connecting, collaborating, learning and doing digital citizenship together with other students and classrooms around the world.  Let’s help our teachers and students become active citizens and enablers of positive change.  Let’s focus on empathy and help our students humanize the person next to them, as well as across the screen.

In many ways, it’s like skipping stones and I hope you will be a part of the ripple effect by amplifying student voice in your classroom by showing the world how social media is used in positive ways. Like Timmy Sullivan said, let’s question the status quo and let’s break the Internet with kindness.

*Contact the @digcit_chat moderating team if you’d like to join us for our SnapChat Challenge and join us on Friday, May 6th for a Google Hangout on Air with educators and students sharing their experiences using SnapChat in the classroom.


Charlie Brown on Digital Citizenship

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Poor Charlie Brown doesn’t get the respect he deserves. Generations have coined him as just a blockhead, but to me, he has always been so much more than just the underdog. Charlie Brown is my hero.

I would pick Charlie Brown as my 12th player a million times over any MVP.  He is the student I’d want in my classroom and the friend I’d want by my side every day of the week. Why? He is kind all the time, he’s principled and doesn’t just follow the crowd, he’s a problem solver and regardless of how many times he might come up short, he never, ever gives up.

Which begs the question: How would Charlie Brown be in the 21st century? What would happen if Charlie Brown had a device and was on social media? Charlie Brown would be exactly the same online as he is offline.

Charlie Brown is the model digital citizen.


Here’s the ultimate Charlie Brown lessons on digital citizenship:

Choose kind, every time. Regardless if Charlie Brown is on the baseball field, at school or directing a play, he is kind to everyone he meets. If Charlie Brown was online he would be part of the solution and not part of the problem. If he saw something mean or humiliating, he would not retweet or repost it. Just like Charlie Brown fills other people’s buckets with kindness, he’d fill their cyber buckets too.

Focus on your character. What you do when you think others are watching you is all about your reputation. What you do when you think nobody’s watching you is all about your character. Just like Charlie Brown, don’t just follow the crowd. Focus on your character. Don’t just do something because everyone is doing it. Instead, be more like Charlie Brown. Be loyal and consistent and regardless if you are on an anonymous site or you think your SnapChat will disappear, be socially responsible all the time.  

Solve problems, create solutions. In 2016, Charlie Brown would be a MakerEd maker, a TEDxYouth speaker, and a Genius Hour genius. He’d make guest appearances on a KidPresident video because just like solving problems offline, he’d be busy connecting and collaborating with a global network to make the world better.

Committed to changing his own community for the better, Charlie Brown not only reminds us all the about the true meaning of Christmas, he reminds us all what it means to be part of the human race.

Charlie Brown with digital access would change global communities using a variety of social media tools and if I were Charlie Brown’s teacher, I’d use #BeMoreLikeCharlieBrown as our class hashtag (or maybe I’d shorten it to #BMLCB).

Never, ever give up. This is Charlie Brown’s mantra. Although Lucy always moves the football the second he is about to kick it, Charlie Brown never gives up hope that he’ll get to kick the football. Every single time, he backs up and charges the football with such focus and clarity. Every time he approaches that football he believes that this is the time he’ll kick it.

Charlie Brown would most definitely apply this approach to being online and he would work on that blog post or that coding assignment until he had it just right. Just like students who understand the power of social media, Charlie Brown would constantly work on his online identity. He’d build up his digital portfolio and would stand out from his peers because he understands the importance of transparency and the need to humanize the person next to you, as well as across the screen.

So, the next time someone says, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest,” know that you just received the highest digital citizenship stamp of approval you could ever possibly receive.

Now go out there and be more like Charlie Brown.

In Gratitude

I have always been a team player.  I have zero athletic ability, but I was born to be on a team.

When it came to kids picking teams, I was always the last kid picked.  I know I was the last pick when it came to my coaches too.  But, that didn’t stop me.  What I lacked in athletic ability, I made up for in spirit and attitude.  I knew at an early age what a privilege it was to be part of a team.

I loved going to practice, wearing the team uniform, working hard and giving it everything I had.  I loved the camaraderie, the laughs and inside jokes between teammates.  As a substitute player, I saw very little playing time, but that didn’t matter because my role on the team was on the sidelines.  In fact, that’s where I developed my leadership skills and I thank every coach I’ve ever had for bringing out the very best in me.

On the sidelines, I learned that every member of the team is invaluable from the MVP to the 12th player.  I also learned to recognize, appreciate and acknowledge the gifts and talents of each individual player.

IMG_6833 This past weekend, my son’s hockey team placed 2nd out of 66 teams in the state.  In the stands, I had time to reflect on the importance of being part of a team.  Not only am I grateful as a player, I am grateful as a parent.  Coaches volunteer their time, talent and passion in order to build confidence and leadership skills for life.  What you learn from a coach defines you for life —  your work ethic, attitude, sacrifice, dedication, commitment, and perseverance.

In gratitude, I want to thank coaches everywhere — especially my soccer coach, Mr. Mac, for inspiring me my entire life.  What I learned on your field, I have brought into my classroom and my profession.

For my son’s hockey coaches, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the privilege to be a parent in the stands all season.  I loved watching you build a foundation for life for each of your players  — it is a testimony to your character and has not gone unnoticed.

As I said before every practice and game, “I’ll give you everything I have, coach.”  What a gift to have learned this lesson early in life and to have the opportunity to watch my son learn the same lessons.



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

We hope you will join us on 23 January 2016 at Bournemouth University. For more information, please follow @digcitsummit and register for updates at http://www.digcitsummit.com/. 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.




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