The Need for Empathy: My Reflection on the Semicolon EDU Project #semicolonEDU


;I can’t say that I understand the many layers of depression or what it even means to suffer from depression. But, I do understand how labels can haunt you. In elementary school, I was diagnosed with dyslexia and this label has tried to define me my entire educational career. When I first started to blog in February 2011, I had my “coming out party” as the Dyslexic Professor.  For years, I had been in the closet, ashamed that I learn differently and convinced no one would ever want to hire a dyslexic teacher. I might not know about depression specifcally, but I do know all about anxiety when it comes to the teacher asking you to read out loud in class or transcribing letters and numbers without even realizing it. Let me just say, I’ll never forget the time I was asked to read out loud in science class and mispronounced “organism” at least a dozen times. For me, I hid behind the class clown persona, so my peers would never know. It has been a heavy burden to carry around and to this day, I avoid reading a script. For those who know me, I have perfected the art of storytelling and rely on my memory and pied-piper personality.

This post is my attempt to talk about the need for more empathy in our schools and in our profession. Words hurt; labels hurt. Period.

Just yesterday, I read this piece in the New York Times, Empathy is Actually a Choice.  My work at the University of Saint Joseph has focused around digital citizenship with an emphasis on empathy.  This is the perfect time for us to embrace making a difference by providing our students ample opportunities to do empathy.

As we support the Semicolon EDU Project, let’s commit ourselves to breaking this cycle of fear and embarrassment.  Let’s model for our students, parents and communities the need to humanize the person next to us, as well as the person across the screen. Let’s shatter any and all labels with an abundance of kindness and empathy.

*Thanks to one of my very first follows on Twitter, Nick Provenzano for having the courage to inspire us all! Another big thanks to one of my former graduate students, Nick Howley for welcoming me into the “tribe” as a safe haven for all – my semicolon logo is inspired because of you.

For more information: #semicolonEDU and #ProjectSemicolon

 

Trolls & Trolling: How Do We Empower Others?


This post is for Curt Schilling. You are my #digcit hero and an all-star dad. I want to share your story with other educators, students, administrators and parents on a digital citizenship (#digcit) chat on Twitter on 3/11/15 between 7-8PM ET and I hope you’ll join us.

In 2011, I co-founded the #digcit chat with one of my graduate students. The chat was a direct result of the digital citizenship course I created and taught at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT. Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month, the #digcit chat connects educators, students, administrators and parents from around the world.

I teach digital citizenship and digital literacy courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level.  Just recently, both my undergraduate and graduate students completed a #creepU assignment. It was a similar assignment to what you did to find the men responsible from sending the inappropriate tweets about your daughter. The students picked a school and examined public student accounts which lead them to multiple social media tools (which were all public). The #creepU assignment was a teachable moment and by no means was meant to shame the school or the students. Last month, we hosted a #creepU chat on Twitter to share our results and urge other teachers to assign the same assignment. Here’s the #digcit agenda from that chat and the archive from the actual chat. The big take-away from the assignment was that digital citizenship is a 24/7 conversation and must be taught in K-12 schools.

How do we help our students realize that your daughter could be their sister, cousin, neighbor? friend? Our students need to be mindful of the choices they make both on and offline and learn to humanize the person next to them, as well as across the screen. I believe it starts with teaching empathy and providing students opportunities to not just read and write about it, but to do it. We need to teach our students how to think and act simultaneously through a local, global and digital lens.

Next Wednesday, I’m going to host a #digcit chat on “Trolls & Trolling” and discuss the seriousness of it, how to prepare our students to handle it (and our teachers to teach it) and best practices on how to find and confront the troll(s). I hope that you will be able to join me and perhaps co-moderate the chat.

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PS: I’m a diehard Red Sox fan too and the only official team jersey I own has your name on it! I’ll be extra proud when I wear it again to Fenway because you have now empowered a global audience to stand up to cyberbullies and trolls! Props to you #38!

Great Advice – Be Present & Auto-Correct Humanity


Spot on! Thank you Prince Ea for reminding us the importance of being present.

How many of us are so busy uploading pictures or videos to update our status that we’ve missed an event? I see people living their lives and watching the world through their devices and it makes me sad.

Leave your devices at home and be present – there’s nothing better than capturing the moment in your heart and your mind!

What I wouldn’t do for a picture of me and my dad sitting in the bleachers at Fenway Park back in the 70’s, but people didn’t bring cameras to sporting events back then.  As much as I’d love a picture in a frame (or one to post) – nothing is better than the image I have captured in my memory of the countless games I spent with my dad – nothing.

So, next time you are going to your child’s recital, attending a sporting event or concert – be present and experience the event without looking through your device.  I promise you, you won’t miss the moment.

I’m looking forward to smiling when I have low batteries – I hope you will too!

Connected Educator Month #ce14 + Connected Student Month #cs14 + #digcit + #stuvoice during National Bullying Month in October = Grandslam


Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.42.05 AMWhat a combination! Excited to get more student’s involved during the month of October in conjunction with Connected Educator Month and National Bullying Month. I’ll be co-moderating the #digcit chat on October 8, 2014 at 7pm EST with my #ed536 graduate students.  We will encourage connected educators to engage their students in #cs14 activities during the month to promote digital citizenship awareness – including more opportunities to do kindness, model empathy, create positive school climate, and stop bullying.  If there is ever going to be a solution – we need our students to take the lead!  Please join us all month long using the #cs14 hashtag in conjunction with #ce14 and invite your students to join the #digcit chat on October 8th!

Resources to help you plan #cs14 activities:

Stomp Out BullyingPACER CenterCommon Sense Media – Resources for National Bullying MonthSpark KindnessBullyBust; National Child Traumatic Stress Network; StopBullying.

Would love to hear what activities you are planning for #cs14! Count us in for any opportunities to connect and collaborate!

What Matters Most?


photo 1My big lesson tonight in class will be simple: Our students don’t care what we know – they care how much we care.

Work on building a community of learners every single day.  Build your foundation because without it – nothing else matters. Engage your students in what kindness looks like and feels like – have them do kindness.  I used to love to read The Araboolies of Liberty Street by Sam Swope in the beginning of each school year.  I’d ask my students what made them unique and like no other – just like the Araboolies?

In today’s data-driven, standards-based era – don’t overlook the importance of building a community in your classroom.  Carve out time each day to let your students know how much they matter and how much you care!

 

The Balancing Act of Life


Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

This is something I struggle with everyday.  As a connected educator, I just can’t keep up. I want to join Twitter chats (and lots of them), I want to participate in deep and meaningful conversations in the Google communities I have joined, I want to create content not just a consume it, but…

I can’t keep up and I feel like I’m drowning.

My son recently commented that I’m on my computer all the time.  Guess what? He’s right – I am.  I catch myself saying, “I have to do this one more thing,” or “I have to make this one last call” to him all the time.  What message am I sending to him? What am I modeling?

In reflection, I’ve always used this device contract via Janell Burley Hoffman with my teacher candidates as a way to begin the conversation about helping our teens become socially responsible both on and offline.  I’d like to take this concept and help other parents and caregivers create a family contract – to help adults model the balancing act of life.

Here’s my pledge and suggestions:

1. All devices should be on a docking station at night in a central location away from where we sleep.  For readers who use their devices as an alarm clock – go buy an alarm clock!  Don’t model that the first and last thing you do each morning and night is check your device.  Be present – say good morning and good night to the people you love (and live with).

2. Leave devices at home or in the car when you go out to dinner.  Make eye contact and enjoy the opportunity to be a family. Get caught up in conversation.  If eating at home, no devices at the table (and no getting up from the table to check a device).  When I was a kid – this rule applied if the phone rang during dinner – make it apply with devices.

3. Reduce the amount of time on devices – do work (participate in Twitter chats, Google communities, etc.) when everyone is at work or school. Family time is sacred.

4. Make an appointment with yourself each day – mark off time in your calendar for some peace and solitude.  Don’t give it all away – save something for yourself each day.  Walk away from devices even if it means missing Twitter chats and opportunities to network and collaborate.

I’m interested in what you would add to this list and why?  How can we help other parents and caregivers be more mindful of their choices and create a balancing act?

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