Category Archives: #digcit

Red Alert: The App is Not the Problem


the app is not the problem (2)I can no longer remain silent about this.

I’ve seen posts warning parents about the dangers of this app and that app with all sorts of sensational headlines. But, I have a spoiler alert for you: The app is not the problem.

We are so afraid that we can’t control or monitor what our teens are doing that we’ve labeled certain apps as “RED ALERT” when that red alert should really be placed on us. I get it though, it is easier to place blame on the app than to acknowledge or address the source of the problem.

Blocking and banning certain apps or sites will not change behaviors. Look at all the violence happening around our world. Somehow, we have forgotten that we are all members of the human race and what happens to one of us — happens to all of us. To quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, the Dead Poet Society, “That you are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

So, the solution begins with each of us. It’s time to contribute our verse to this critical conversation. We need to engage, educate and mentor our society on the choices and consequences of being human. We need to model what respect for ourselves and others really looks like and to invest in building community wherever we go.

I think the hack needed for education really begins and ends with the ability to humanize the person next to us, as well as across the screen. When we can do this, we can change culture and build communities at the local, global and digital level simultaneously.

Let’s stop the blame game, address the underlying problem and celebrate what makes us human.  

Be in the Moment: Going Device Free to Fenway Park


What I wouldn’t do to have a picture of me and my dad in the bleachers at Fenway Park. But, when I was a kid falling in love with a baseball team in the late 70’s, no one brought a camera to a sporting event, except the newscasters. The rest of us, well, we sat back and enjoyed the game.
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This is exactly what I’m going to do today with my son. I am going to practice what I preach and I’m going device free.

Although I’d love nothing more than an album full of pictures of being a kid growing up at Fenway Park, the memories and images I have in my mind are crystal-clear. I don’t need a picture to remember when Don “Gerbil” Zimmer was our coach, Carlton “Pudge” Fisk was our catcher and how George “Boomer” Scott delighted us with every crack of the bat. If I was distracted, it was because I was scoring the game with my dad or bugging him to find the hotdog vendor. I wasn’t a prisoner behind a device trying to catch the big play and upload it for all my friends to see, I was in the moment with my dad and a crowd full of fans cheering on their home team.

Today, I’ll repeat that experience with my son. So, Big Papi hit a home run today because we will be totally present and will capture the moment without being behind a screen!

Digital Citizenship Summit Heads to Twitter HQ in October


Unexpectedkindness is themost powerful,least costly, andmost underratedagent of humanchangeThis week’s announcement about the Digital Citizenship Summit being held at Twitter Headquarters on 28 October is such an incredible opportunity for the entire digital citizenship global community that I wanted to write this post to thank all the people who have supported us from the very beginning. There have so many people behind the scenes, volunteers, speakers, and supporters from around the globe. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being part of this critical conversation and continuing to move it forward into your classrooms and communities.

Believing that nothing happens in a vacuum or by accident, I also wanted to write this post to thank all the people who have personally supported me from the very beginning of my digital citizenship journey. I am indebted to numerous people for casting light on my journey and am so grateful to my PLN for graciously sharing their time, talent and passion with my students over the years.

For me, the making of the Digital Citizenship Summit happened long before our inaugural event last October at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut. In fact, my journey started years ago before I even had my first email address or mobile device. As a middle school teacher, I was always student-centered and focused on meeting the developmental needs of young adolescents. My interest in amplifying student voice has always been my True North and reason behind any and all decisions I’ve made during my educational career.

Although Tyler Clementi was the student who changed my perspective and inspired me to change my practice, he was never a student in my classroom.

I did not know Tyler, but his suicide made me determined to focus on a solution. Tyler Clementi could be my son, your son. He was a brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend, neighbor, and most importantly, a human being. This perspective launched me into uncharted territory. I am the mother of a son. What if this was my son? What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again? How can I make a difference?

In many ways, Tyler Clementi was the impetus behind my First Year Seminar course, Pleased to Tweet You: Are You a Socially Responsible Digital Citizen? My definition of digital citizenship is a direct result of the iCitizen Project which asks students to think and act at a local, global and digital level simultaneously. By 2011, I was tired of digital citizenship being an add-on to the curriculum, as well as edtech and bullying conferences. I knew digital citizenship needed its own space and that’s why I created and designed 3 credit courses specifically around the nine elements of digital citizenship at both the undergraduate and graduate level. In February 2012, I also planned and hosted my first livestreamed event, the iCitizenship Town Hall Meeting for both a live and virtual audience and just like the Digital Citizenship Summit, none of this would have been possible without the support of countless people.

As I reflect on the people who have supported me, I am reminded of just how many students and educators have virtually joined my digital citizenship courses and participated in the #digcit chat on Twitter over the years. Week after week, members of my PLN graciously shared their time, talent and passion with my students through Twitter, Skype and Google Hangout. I could seriously write a book on the entire experience, but for this blog post, I’ll share one of my favorite virtual guests, Jeremiah Anthony, a high school student from Iowa. Jeremiah Skyped and live tweeted, Stand Up & Speak Out with Digital Citizenship with my undergraduates. He demonstrated how it takes just one person to make a difference in your community both on and offline.

There have been so many people over the years who have been that one person to me and I just want to publicly thank anyone who has ever supported me through all my digital citizenship courses, projects, Twitter chats and conferences, including the iCitizenship Town Hall Meeting, Digital Citizenship Summit and the Digital Citizenship Summit UK. It has been a privilege and an honor to learn alongside a global network of students, educators, parents and the edtech industry as we collectively continue to solve problems and create solutions together.

So, from my middle school classroom in the early 90’s to my college campus in West Hartford to Bournemouth Univeristy in the UK to Twitter Headquarters — thank you, thank you for being part of this incredible journey.

My heart is full.

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.

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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.

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.

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*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


 

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#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.

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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.

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