Category Archives: EDUC 536

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 being the student who was the first to ask me to look out a different lens, who changed my practice and welcomed me into the “tribe” as a safe haven for all – my semicolon logo is inspired because of you.

For more information: #semicolonEDU and #ProjectSemicolon


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!

Skimmers, Smishing, SpoofCards, Wifi Sniffing: What Do You Know About Cybersafety?

I was fortunate to participate in a Goggle Hangout with Sarah Thomas on cybersecurity this December. Sarah is the Technology Liaison at John Hanson French Immersion School in Oxon Hill, MD.  In addition to this role, she also teaches Technology Integration and English Language Arts at the middle school level.  She has served on the School Leadership Team, advising administrators and teachers on technology-related matters. Her cybersecurity session was informative and interactive and by the end of it, I made sure I subscribed to her interactive YouTube tutorials for teachers and followed her boards on Pinterest (I was already following her on Twitter). I also knew in December that we needed to bring her voice, as well as her talents to a #digcit chat in 2014.

I hope you can join us for #digcit chat tomorrow 4/9/14 at 7pm ET as Sarah shares “Protect Yo’Self Foo!” Please watch her GH prior to the chat, so you can actively participate in our cybersafety/cybersecurity discussion.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 10.10.59 PM

In the chat, we will explore skimmers, smishing, spoofcards, wifi sniffing and other cyberthreats:

Q1: Now that we have a working #cybersafety #cybersecurity definition how do & can we inform others?

Q2: What do you see as the biggest educational cyberthreat in 2014? #digcit

Q3: What is the biggest cyberthreat to you, personally? #digcit

Q4: What measures do you take to protect your identity? #digcit

Q5: How do we help protect our students & inform parents about the seriousness of #cybersafety? #digcit

Q6: What safety tips do you use that you could share with others? #digcit

To participate in the #digcit chat, all you need is a Twitter account.  You can follow the hashtag #digcit between 7-8pm ET and tweet your comments and questions to the group by including the #digcit hashtag in your tweet.

We hope tomorrow’s #digcit chat will provide an opportunity for us to examine the measures we are currently taking to protect ourselves, our students and how we are supporting parents in this critical conversation.  As one of my graduate students enrolled in my #digcit course said tonight:


The Bully Project

I saw the Bully Project last night and I hope parents, teachers and administrators throughout the country will bring their children and students to see it.   How do we engage more people in this critical conversation?  The statistics are dire: 13 million students will be bullied in the U.S. this year and 3 million students are absent each month because they feel unsafe at school.  Look at your school’s mission statement.  I guarantee you that it states that your school is a safe haven for all.  Its time that we create schools where everyone feels welcome and safe.

There were parts of this documentary that made me so angry and other parts that made me cry.  I applaud the students and parents involved in telling their stories and exposing the seriousness of bullying.  Using the excuse, “Kids will be kids or boys will be boys” is no longer acceptable.  I sobbed listening to the students and parents share their pain.  This is a national epidemic which effects children of all ages across our country and around the world.  The time has come and enough is enough.  What are you going to do to be the difference?

Please join #digcit chat on Wednesday, 4/17 at 7 PM EST to be part of the solution and help our schools lead the change and be the difference!


Thank you PLN for changing teacher preparation!

What a semester! Full of Twitter, wiffiti, Skype, Schoology, Posterous, KidBlog, Edmodo, YouTube, iMovie, MovieMaker, StoryJumper, Prezi, #digcit, #fys11, #icitizen….

The best part?  You – my PLN! 

I asked for virtual mentors in a post in July: Looking for virtual elementary teachers to be science and social studies mentors. I was looking for elementary teachers to be virtual mentors, as well as guest experts via Skype for my graduate course and you responded above and beyond my expectations!

Here’s what my EDUC 555 students had to say about the virtual experience:

  • Having a virtual mentor has been awesome!  As with Skype, my virtual mentor has provided me with knowledge and ideas all the way from Hawaii!
  • I believe Skyping with virtual mentors in class was essential to the success of EDUC 555.  The conversations that were sparked during and after our Skype sessions were one of the aspects that made this class as successful as it was.
  • I loved hearing from all of the different people who have Skyped into our classroom. I would LOVE to be in the class where the students are creating an app about the butterflies.  I also love the welcoming “letter” that our new friend from Canada sent to her kids. I would have loved to see the classroom before the first day of school and gotten an introduction to the things we were going to do in that coming school year. Also, our latest Skyper , WOW; I still cannot get over how much time he set aside in his life for us! I have told some of my teacher friends about him and how amazing his presentation was for us (even connecting the CT standards into the presentation) and how he spent an hour with our class and was so excited and happy to share with us and get us just as excited as he was about incorporating science into our own classrooms. Truly amazing experience!
  • Watching my classmates try new things, writing lessons in groups, and learning from the virtual mentors via Skype and Twitter have been incredible experiences. The virtual mentors, especially, have made this class something incredible to remember. Their warmth, reflection, wealth of knowledge, interest in helping other educators, and all around advice was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Also, this class taught me that one could absolutely use Skype effectively in the classroom. The group of youngsters from Tennessee teaching our group how to be good teachers is a fond memory that I hope I can reproduce from the other side with my class. Perhaps I can Skype in with my class when I’m student teaching!
  • EDUC555 has not been the typical teacher preparation course. Incorporating both science and social studies into a sixteen week course is a challenge. I feel that both contents are being addressed in depth due to the integration of Skype and virtual mentors into the classroom. Skyping in with science and social studies teachers from all over has opened up doors that would have otherwise remained closed. The teachers that have reached out through Skype have been truly passionate about education and willing to help any way they could.
  • This class truly helped to show me that there really is a community of teachers, who are also learners, who care and want to share. I smile to think that these teachers are out there, ready to share their knowledge and experience and advice. It is not just about teaching but about humanity, and I am thankful for the kindness of these teachers we met on Skype. Our classroom Skye sessions were very beneficial for me, without them I would not have been aware of the vast world of resources that exist online and through others.

The list could go on and on….

An extra special thank you to Tom Riddle from South Carolina, Glenn Gibson and Amy Murray from Calgary, Aviva Dunsiger from Ancaster, Paula Naugle from New Orlean, Sean Musselman, Nancy Carroll, Tracy Sockalosky and Shawn Avery from Massachusetts, Evelyn Heckman from Hawaii, Leah LaCrosse from Ohio, Autumn Laidler from Chicago, Ben Curran from Michigan, and Tamra Lanning and her 5th grade students from Tennessee for sharing your time, passion and expertise with my students.  This experience has changed me as a learner and as a teacher educator.  You provided such a rich learning opportunity and you have changed teacher preparation!  Thank you for the bottom of my heart!

Other related posts: Higher Ed Goes Virtual and Endless possibilities when you know that #youmatter


What is your responsibility – legally and morally?

All semester, I have been asking my students how we can best help students, teachers, parents and community members understand their responsibility as it relates to how we treat others both face to face and online.  I began the semester wanting to create solutions to stomp out bullying/cyberbullying, but now I want to [delete] the word “bully” and the word “digital”. The focus needs to be on citizenship and how we treat others in the 21st century both face to face and online.  In a few short months I have learned, unlearned and relearned a lot, but one thing remains constant: I am committed to helping teachers understand their responsibility in creating a safe school climate for every child.

The Penn State scandal has rocked me.  How can following the protocol legally be enough?  What about making the best decision for the child?  That child could be your child, your sibling, your relative, your neighbor, your friend.  What is your moral responsibility?  The recent NY Times article, The Devil and Joe Paterno, said it best, “No higher cause can trump that obligation — not a church, and certainly not a football program. And not even a lifetime of heroism can make up for leaving a single child alone, abandoned to evil, weeping in the dark.”

My question to you is what is your responsibility legally and morally? What happens when you witness an unkind or evil act?  The question posed is a natural fit for both my undergraduate and graduate course on citizenship in the 21st century.  How do we help our K-12 students understand their responsibility?

I am on a crusade to make a difference and I hope you will join me!



Endless possibilities when you know that #youmatter

This is the best of the best! Forget about receiving “snail mail” over the summer from your new teacher.  If I were a student in Aviva Dunsiger’s classroom I would be absolutely giddy with anticipation about starting the school year with my new teacher!

To learn more about #youmatter, watch Angela Maiers’ Ted Talk: You Matter.  #youmatter has always been my mantra.  Labeled and tracked early as a dyslexic student, I had few encounters with teachers like Aviva and Angela.  Once I began my teaching career in 1993, I was determined to make sure that each and every student was recognized, appreciated and celebrated.  In one of my earlier posts, Do You See Me? I shared this thought, “Make it a point to see me.  Recognize me. Appreciate me.  Celebrate me.  I’ll be willing to go the extra mile for you if you do!” Watching Aviva’s welcome video to her students does all of this and so much more!

Share your thoughts and insights.  How can we integrate more #youmatter opportunities in classrooms around the world?


Learning for the Love of Learning

Today was my first day back in the pool since I had a panic attack during my first triathlon in April.  I wrote a post, Gotta Tri all about my experience learning how to swim at my age.  Today, I felt like a ballerina in the water.  I was graceful and calm and actually swimming!  My lesson today was so drastically different than the weeks leading up to the triathlon. Why?  There was no pressure that there was a test or a competition at the end.  I was swimming because I wanted to swim. Plain and simple.  There was no need to hyperventilate, no one would be testing me at the end.  It put everything into perspective for me – this is how our students can feel when learning is focused around the assessment or the test.  What happened to learning for the love of learning?

Before my swim lesson today, I read a beautiful post Leading With Love at Booker T. Washington posted by Corrie Kelly.

This is exactly what we need.  More love.  The love of learning to swim for the first time, playing an instrument, figuring out an algebra problem, writing poetry, conducting a science experiment, etc. The list could go on and on.  I had absolutely no fear in the pool today because I wasn’t focused on competing; I was focused on the moment.  How can we duplicate this in the classroom more often?



Dinosaurs and Tiaras: Facing Intolerance

I love that my graduate students have challenged, tackled and addressed controversial issues this semester.  Our focus on digital citizenship has addressed issues of intolerance week after week.  I find myself challenging my beliefs and asking questions that I never even thought of when I first started teaching.

My transformation started this fall when the freshmen from Rutgers, Tyler Clementi took his own life. I took it personally. 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?

The world responded and It Gets Better Project had people across the world stepping up and pledging to speak up against intolerance.  Celebrities posted their own stories and words of encouragement.  As our semester is coming to a close, I’m still concerned that I haven’t done enough.  Why do children and teens have to wait for it to get better?  Why can’t we make it better now?

Recently, the controversy around the J.Crew designer and her five year old son wearing neon pink nail polish hit the news.  Everyone seemed to have an opinion.  It made me dig deep.  My four year old is all about dinosaurs, but what would I do if he was interested in tiaras?  I kept coming back to the same questions: why would it matter?  Children need the opportunity to play and explore different roles – that’s what growing up is all about.  In middle school, adolescents try on new personas daily.  We support young adolescents as they figure out who they are socially, emotionally, physically, intellectual and morally.  Why are we not doing this in all phases of a child’s development?  What do we need to do as a society to change how we view others and accept individual differences?  Doesn’t everyone want to celebrate what makes us unique?  I certainly do!  I’m not waiting, I pledge to make a difference now.


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