Content Curation: A necessary skill for today’s learners

Curation is the “ability to find, to filter, to evaluate, to annotate, to choose which sources are valuable” (Valenza, Boyer , Curtis, 2014). In our information-rich age, not only is it necessary to curate, but creating content from curated resources is an excellent way to consolidate understanding and provides students with the opportunity to think critically and creatively. I have written about Content Curation and Digital Leadership before. I also include curation tools in the chapter, “The Other Social Media Tools” in Social LEADia because I believe that Storify, and curation tools like it…

provide a great way for students to summarize and synthesize learning by allowing them to create something new out of any online content, including social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Google+. What I love most about curating tools is that several people can draw from very similar information and their final products can end up completely different–the results are based entirely on a person’s selection and interpretation of the resource, making the story unique to their learning.

With that in mind, you could ask students to draw from a specific hashtag connected to a movement, an organization, an author, or a politician and then have them summarize their interpretation of the main messages. Older students could generate a thesis and use the artifacts and examples they find to prove it. Or, better yet, you could turn the traditional essay on its head by having students use a curation tool to write a persuasive “essay” (page 147).

Here is an image I created that shows how a few curation tools can support literacy.


So with Storify gone, Wakelet looks like a great replacement tool for all learners to curate information. It has a simple interface. Unlike Storify, you need to grab external links, but a useful Chrome extension means you can use Wakelet to curate all your resources in one place with the option to create wakes from them at any time.

Randall Sampson, who loved Storify as much as I did, created a wake about how to create a wake. Check it out here.

Moving your Storify Stories to Wakelet

Check out this video on how to verify and import stories from storify to Wakelet. I very simply transferred my stories over.

What it DOES not tell you is that you can exit the app and Wakelet will email you when your stories have been fully imported.


What is a curation tool you use to curate social media links? Do you have a good alternative to Storify? Would love to hear about them in the comments!


Valenza, J. K., Boyer, B. L., & Curtis, D. (2014). Curation outside the library world. Library Technology Reports, 50(7), 51.

Gratitude & Kindness

This post is inspired by two posts I read recently: Jay Dubois’s post challenging me to write about my #attitudeofgratitude and Tamara Letter’s post, Serving Others Unseen (Tamara is the queen of kindness). I also love the #oneword challenge and enjoy various posts about the one word that will shape the new year. I could not pick one word: instead, my 2018 will be framed by Gratitude and Kindness.


I have had a tumultuous year. I reflect upon the fact that last year, my friends graciously volunteered to buy Christmas presents for me because I could not go to a mall, or a drugstore, or even a grocery store for that matter. My Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) had me down and out for quite some time in 2017. The year started as one of the most personally challenging of my life. I actually didn’t write a #oneword last year as a result. And yet, despite the really rough start, this has been one of the most amazing years as well.

I am grateful for the support of George Couros, Dave and Shellley Burgess, and Erin Casey who helped me to become the author of Social LEADia in June of 2017.  Being a part of the Dave Burgess Consulting (DBC) Family has allowed me to get to know other DBC authors who are so very brilliant and inspiring.

I am grateful to Doug Peterson, Paul Paterson, Justin Schleider, Katie Martin, and Stephanie Viveiros, my mother and father-in-law, and my teens for helping me to edit my book when I couldn’t actually look at a screen for more than 30 minutes.

I am amazed by the the accomplishments and the exemplary leadership of the students I feature in the book, as well as the student leaders I continue to meet both in person and online every day.

I have been fortunate enough to belong to several different PLNs again this year, and if at all possible, I feel even more connected to people with whom I mostly collaborate online. Meeting so many of them in person has been so very special, and I hope to meet many more of  the educators with whom I regularly interact on social media in 2018.

I owe so much to Sarah Thomas and Jennifer Bond as well as the entire Edumatch family who helped keep me sane when I was home and sadder than I’ve ever been in my life and for the continued support and encouragement of the Edumatch crew. I was able to meet so many of them at ISTE and further connected with Heidi and Toutoule in Vegas for Cue Vegas where I met so many more wonderful people.

The Ed Tech Team (Emily, Jeffrey, Sylvia, Kim, Sandra, Jen, Joanna) have been so amazing to work and learn with and as a result of the Summits, I have met and had the opportunity to get to know some incredible and passionate educators.

My #DigCit PLN (Nancy, Kristen, Marialice, Michael, Jaimie, William) and the many #DigCitSummit leaders and planners are changing what we think of when we talk about digital citizenship.

My GEG Ontario Leaders group (David, Amit, Laura, Larissa, Mike, Marie-Andree) inspire me, as do the planning team for Dig Cit Summit Toronto (Tina, Mark, Andrew, Carlo, Gwynth, and Bessie).

The ONEdSs chat has connected me with an incredible and inspiring group of students who are changing how students connect and converse on Twitter. I am grateful for the leadership and support of Leigh, Brock, Allison, Nicole, and Jay–the adults on the team.

I have never laughed so hard as I have when I share my worst off-tune singing with my Singoff Snapchat crew (Mandy, Tara, Tish, Rodney, Evan, Mandy, and Rachelle) and I am really learning Snapchat as a result of this group!

There are so many teachers in Ontario that are inspiring leaders and thinkers. The #onted PLN (way too many to list), supported to a great extent by Doug Peterson and Stephen Hurley (VoiceEDRadio), is a testament to the fact that we have way more to celebrate in education in our province than to complain about.

I am grateful to be in a job where I can impact as well as learn from so many young people who remind me why I became an educator in the first place, and I am grateful that I am able to be back working full time without feeling too many adverse effects from my MTBI.


I think it is this attitude of gratitude that has really inspired me to promote kindness and generosity towards others. I have always been an altruistic person, but especially this year, I feel like I need to pay my blessings forward.

Students at my school have been performing random acts of kindness for others for their Religion CPTs.

Our school held a school-wide drive for St. Vincent De Paul (a local organization that donates Christmas gifts to the less fortunate).

In our own home, we also sponsored a family with our extended family. My husband bought a pair of jeans for a student in need as well as other necessities.  I sought out a family I knew could use some help in our school community and the student’s joy and thanks brightened up my entire holiday. I was so excited to leave a gift card at a local coffee shop for seniors to enjoy, that I forgot to pick up my own coffee. And yesterday, my neighbours were setting out to deliver gifts to a family of 7 children who are refugees from Nigeria.

My youngest daughter took it upon herself to collect money for her class and this week, we went out together so she could buy the items requested by the family. I was so proud of the care she took to choose and wrap each gift.

I am always conflicted about sharing random acts of kindness on social media; good deeds must be done with good intentions, not for attention (author unknown). But sharing these might inspire others to perform a random act of kindness for another and another and another. I know that my own children look to my husband and I as role models.

There is so much good in the world and yet we are so ready and willing to share the negative. What if we took the spirit of giving that envelops us at this time of year and made Random Acts of Kindness and #Gratitude regular habits both online and in person?

Please join me in making #KINDNESS and #GRATITUDE words to live by in 2018.


Learning is Social

This week in my Principles of Learning Course, we talked about an article called Brain/Mind Natural Learning Principles (Caine & Caine, 2012)  which outlines 12 principles of learning. I focused Capacity #2: All students have the capacity to comprehend more effectively when their needs for social interactions and relationship are engaged and honored.

As an educator who has been involved in co-teaching for many years, I have the advantage of observing classroom practices and notice that so much of the instruction in our classrooms is about students working independently and quietly at the same task as others in the classroom.  I reflect on my own teaching of English many years ago and how much time I spent instructing and students working. This principle reinforces the need to revisit some of our traditional practices.

Research of teacher-centered learning and cooperative learning in science has found  that “learning is more effective when students are actively involved in sharing ideas and working cooperatively with other students to complete academic tasks” (Ebrahim, 2012, pg 16).  In my own experience as a Literacy Consultant, I used the Adolescent Literacy guide to help teachers understand the development of the adolescent learner. The guide references the importance of social learning and in particular provides this advice to teachers in terms of how they might tap into students’ social development and learning:

  • providing opportunities for students to interact with each other to attain personal and collaborative goals;

  • grouping and regrouping students for a variety of purposes to build confidence and competence in various social arrangements (Edugains , 2016, pg 16).

Strong relationships are foundational to educating students today which Willms, Friesen & Milton argue includes building social cohesion: “Today’s teachers are called upon to work with colleagues to design learning environments that promote deeper engagement in learning as a reciprocal process. Learning can no longer be understood as a one-way exchange where ‘we teach, they learn.’ It is a reciprocal process that requires teachers to help students learn with understanding, and not simply acquire disconnected sets of facts and skills” ((Willms, Friesen & Milton, 2009). They stress the importance of making school a “socially, academically, and intellectually exciting and worthwhile place to be” (Willms, Friesen & Milton, 2009).

I see this with my own daughter, who will use Facetime to video conference with her peers before a big test in order to learn the material more effectively. She complains about not having enough opportunities to do this in school.

I am passionate about using the vast reach of technology and social media to connect students. And in my experience connecting students to each other using technology and social media, has been extremely effective. I have seen an increase in engagement and achievement when students connected their learning in a social context. An example I share in my book, Social LEADia occurs when I helped connect a Religion class to a class in Buenos Aires, the teacher noted:

“Everything we learned about in class could be related back to our interactions to Argentina and because these were experiences they were having and connections they were making the learning was individualized and made important to them! This directly translated into academic success as they just wrote their Unit 2 test and the class average was 91%  in comparison to their Unit 1 tests which the class average was 71%. On many of the student’s tests they included examples and stories of their connections to those students in Argentina and for me that was a huge teacher win!” (Machala, 2016).

Social media connections serve to complement in-class connections as well. Students’ shared experience connecting with others can bring a class together. I have seen this happen on several occasions especially when time is given to reflect on the process.

I am also right now working with students who are working together to create a Pit Stop (game about a location in the world) for an Amazing Race EDU collaborative project, as well as their own Breakout EDU challenges. The final product asks them to consolidate their learning and arrive at a product which relies on the collaborative contributions of others. Students are actively engaged and their biological need to work with others is being met. It is important to note that  the planning for the project happens in face to face groups as well as online.

This principle caused me to pause and reflect on my instructional practices to ensure that I am actually meeting the needs of my students. Is most of what we require individual? How do we strike a balance to ensure that the needs of students who do really thrive on independent work are balanced with the need to be social? I invite your own thoughts and reflections in the comments.


Brain/Mind Natural Learning Principles  Renate N. Caine, Ph.D. and Geoffrey Caine, LL.M.

Ebrahim, A. Int J of Sci and Math Educ (2012) 10: 293.

Edugains. Adolescent Literacy Guide. (2016) 1-124. Retrieved from

Mahala, R. (2016, October 31). Global Connections [Web log post]. Retrieved October 28, 2017,


Willms, J. D., Friesen, S. & Milton, P. (2009). What Did You Do in School Today? (First National

Report). Toronto: Canadian Education Association.

Are we clear with all stakeholders about why we are posting to social media?

I recieved the following letter from a concerned parent:
I was hoping you could help direct me.  I have small children in preschool and the school uses social media for their marketing purposes.  While a highly effective marketing strategy, I’m concerned with their lack of guidelines, considering small children are involved.  Do you have any resources you could direct me to which would help highlight do’s and don’ts in using social media as an advertising technique in schools?
My response:
I don’t know if I can direct you to a specific resource. Ontario is bound by privacy laws that prevent educators from posting pictures or names without explicit parental permission.  Was a Freedom of Information form signed? If so, then the school assumes the right to post. If not, then this issue should be brought to the attention of the school principal or supervisor. I’m not sure if you are from Ontario or the US?
You use the word, “marketing”. I know that there is definitely a school of thought that encourages schools to  tell the story of their school, and to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of staff and students via social media. I’m not sure that is what you mean by marketing purposes or are they literally creating brochures and posters that they have shared without permission? 
In many cases, social media acts as a window into the classroom. I know several teachers who post, with parent permission, some of the interesting happenings so parents can be more involved in the school day.  To include all children, where Freedom of Information forms have not been signed, many teachers take pics of hands, heads, and feet. One of the great side effects of this is that parents not only learn about what’s going on in the classroom, but also learn about the tools that their own children are or will be using so as to bridge the inter-generational digital literacy gap that is sometimes prevalent.
It sounds like, however, your principal did not share the “why” they are posting on social media. I might begin with asking that. When I work with administrators and teachers, I always tell them to communicate with parents not just what they are doing, but why. 
In my role, I also encourage students to make decisions about what should be posted and what should be kept private, or what is appropriate or not appropriate to share. I believe, and research supports the fact that adult mentoring is very important to prevent problematic media use. It may be worthwhile to inquire if students are participating in the posting.
I am not sure how much I helped with your question, but I hope I at least gave you insight as to a few different perspectives of how schools use social media as opportunities to mentor young people. How you are feeling warrants a conversation. I would encourage you to book an appointment to ask clarifying questions about the intent and purpose of social media being used.
I have no idea if this response resonated, because I never heard back from the parent, but this email made me wonder if we need to reflect upon why we share pics of our students? Is it to give insight into the classroom? Is it to celebrate their achievements? Is it to mentor their use of social media tools? Or are we using kids as a means to promote our own greatness or market our school?
Are we so focused on “branding” that we are forgetting that we need to be models of effective digital citizenship and digital leadership?
I think about how this situation could easily have been prevented if the principal or teacher had been transparent with parents and explained the why.  I love this example of how Brad Gustafson does this when he talks about his school’s use of social media:

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

When sharing is healing

Yesterday, my family and I experienced a loss we had never ever felt (thankfully) before, but I am sure we will experience again. We had to put our dog, Ginger down.

I anticipated it would be awful, but was not quite prepared for the sorrow of watching my family be so emotional or how I would feel when our beautiful pup lay there motionless as she breathed her last breath.

We wondered whether we should post anything on social media or whether we should keep our grief private. We put the idea away for a while as we gathered all of Ginger’s belongings: her food, her favourite toys, her bed.

We were all exhausted from the sheer emotion of it. We didn’t answer the phone when it rang or pick up our phones at all.

Everywhere we looked, there were reminders. The silence was and is perhaps the hardest. By the end of the afternoon, we thought it might be easier to post what happened, so we could avoid that awkward question when someone asked how Ginger was doing.

The resulting outpouring of support and condolences was so overwhelming and touching and it helped me. And you may say, sure, it’s that dopamine high from getting likes on social media, but it was more than that. You see people took the time to send a message or a separate DM, or a text. A friend even shared a poem.

I take away two thoughts.

  1. For as much as people blame social media for the ills of the world, this was yet another reminder to me that it can be an incredibly beautiful and supportive space too.
  2. We will all be in school tomorrow still grieving in our own ways. I am reminded that we need to reach out to people in kindness every day because we don’t know what inner struggles they are facing or the heaviness of their hearts.

Thank you to all of you who made a positive difference in my world this weekend.





QR Codes are making a comeback

You either love them or hate them. Some educators feel like using QR codes are unnecessary; why not just give kids a shortened URL? Last year, I asked my high school students what they thought about QR codes as a way to access information in my Library Learning Commons. Responses varied slightly, but the general consensus was:

“Nah. We don’t use them.”

“They’re lame, Sorry Miss.”

Then came the iOS 11 update about a month ago. This update turned the iphone camera into a QR code scanner.

So I created a trial sign-in for students using the Library Learning Commons on their spare just to see if the perception of QR codes had changed. First of all, many students didn’t even know that feature existed. As I showed them how to access the new sign-in, I heard many of them say,


“That’s sick.”

“I didn’t even know you could do that.”

Now that it’s been a month, I’ve asked students for feedback to determine whether or not I go back to my paper & pen sign in. And do you know what? Students said they love the ease of access using the QR code.

It’s fascinating to me how Apple seems to determine trends with teens. But, hey. I am flexible and seek to meet students where they are. QR codes are definitely a great way for students to see their smartphones as a tool for learning. I know that some students (especially ones with slow processing speed or perceptual reasoning issues) really benefit the most as I’ve seen students put in a URL several times and not access the website they need.

I have used QR codes in Inquiry centres for students to access supplementary videos, to showcase book talks or to link to surveys. Students have also recently shown an interest in creating their own QR codes. For example, I am working with several grade 9 classes to create a pit stop for the Amazing Race EDU global collaborative project and they would like to have students do a physical challenge and post it to a padlet. I added this slide to the “Creating a Pit Stop Resources” and many students are now incorporating QR codes into their game.

Here is a brief video tutorial I shared with them:

Even if your students don’t have iOS devices, showing them the In-igma app means that all students can access a QR code easily and quickly.

And so, it may be time to take a look back at those ideas about using QR codes that we abandoned before and see if they work with this generation of kids that now think QR codes are “lit”.

I had this one by We are Teachers book-marked. How about you?


Teaching, Inspiring, and Mental Health

I received a Facebook message from a student I taught 20 years ago!!  It started, “I’m not sure if you remember me.” She said that I had come to her mind the other day so she decided to search me out. She said,

“I want to let you know that you were a wonderful teacher to me during high school and your positivity, encouragement and excitement for learning had a profound effect on my outlook on life.”

She went on to update me on her many learning adventures (from missionary work to law to marriage to motherhood & 4 educational degrees).  She ended the message saying,

“I wanted to thank you for helping to shape my young, curious and stubborn mind…You encouraged adventure and often told me that I had the power to follow any dream my brain could conjure. It turns out you were right.”

I actually do remember this student well. She was funny and clever and brimming with religious faith. What I don’t remember is doing anything extraordinary where she was concerned. When you teach high school you may have upwards of 90 students a semester. It is almost frightening to think about how much of an impact we can make, without knowing it.

I have been in a bit of a funk lately. I have been procrastinating, eating more, exercising less, and wearing a feigned smile most days. I can’t put my finger on why.  It was so beautiful to have a student reach out to me with such profoundly complimentary words when I am feeling so blue.

But it was a rude awakening as well.

Even during our down days, our students look to us for encouragement and for support.  It is for this, and many other reasons, that we need to take care of our mental health.

This #IMMOOC episode with Dwight Carter really speaks to vulnerability of leadership, but the importance of mental health as well and it really resonated with me this week.

I think it’s important to make sure that we are at our best, but that when we aren’t, we talk about it. The learners we serve are way too important and so are we!

What are some of the strategies you use to stay well?

Digital Citizenship Week

Happy Digital Citizenship week. While I don’t philosophically believe in dedicating just one week to what I believe should be a part of our daily practice, it’s a great way to draw attention to the ways in which we are helping teachers and students understand how to behave in ethical and responsible ways online. I think of this week as a springboard for an entire year of opportunity to contextualize learning around digital citizenship!

Beyond Cybersafety

I am very heartened to see that many schools and teachers are moving beyond a fear-mongering-stay-off-the-internet approach to keeping kids safe online. I still get chills when I think of young Charlotte (whom I feature in Social LEADia) being told that her “parents must not love her” because they let her create a website inviting people to share their favourite books. I know we still have a long way to go, but showing students how they can contribute positively and creatively in online spaces is happening with greater frequency.

For example, it is good to see the new ISTE Citizen standards have included some of the wisdom that many educators have been sharing for a while now and shift towards positive. This week might be a great time to have a look at  the Standard Statements, reflective questions, and tips. Here is an example from the Educator standards:

Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world.

a. Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community. 

Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world.

b. Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency

c. Mentor students in safe, legal and ethical practice with digital tools and the protection of intellectual rights and property. 

Beyond Digital Citizenship

One of the things I try to do in Social LEADia, is share the stories of kids who are “using the vast reach of technology and social media to improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others (Couros, 2013).  They do this by learning and sharing learning, by empowering others without a voice, and by being a more positive influence on others. You may argue that not all students can be leaders and so focusing on positive digital citizenship is a better approach. And I would agree, but digital leadership is about leading change and about putting ownership in the hands of students. It is about forging a new path for others to follow. Not everyone can change the world, but we all have the power to change the world of another person.

This idea came through loud and clear in the panel discussion for Edumatch which I had the honour of moderating to launch Digital Citizenship week with Nancy Watson of ISTE’s @DigCitPLN.  I brought together educators and students I feature in the book for a conversation around using social media and inspiring kids to make a difference. You can watch it here:

Resources and ideas:

  1. I encourage you beginning this week to have a look at the accounts of the students on this Twitter list and to check out the blogs & websites of these student leaders, while also taking a look at your own school community or classroom for kids who are inspiring others to action both online and offline.

By showing our students examples of kids who are leading (as Darren Pamayah does with his students), we show students role models they may never otherwise see if they are following celebrities and cat videos online.


2. Check out these quick visual tips created by Kathleen Currie Smith based on Chapter 7 of Social LEADia

3. Check out these Digital Citizenship Lessons in Two Minutes or Less by Nancy Watson.

4. Check out @DigCitKids ideas here.

5. Check out the various resources I have curated for Chapter 7 which are sure to help you all year long.


Please share your own stories and your action plan in the comments below.

Happy Digital Citizenship week!



ISTE Standards FOR EDUCATORS. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2017, from

Change, Hope, and Thanksgiving

This morning, I woke up and found World War III trending on Twitter. Thankfully, it was far below, Thanksgiving, Happy Thanksgiving Monday, and Thanksgiving Canada.

But still, it was on the list and as people continue to click on it and retweet it, it will edge itself higher and higher.

As one of many educators who advocates for the use of social media in the classroom, it gave me slight pause. And for a nano-second, I allowed it to make me waver. I reached out to my friend, George Couros about it, he reminded me that “the only way to fix things is to change them, not ignore them.” This is one of the many reasons why I value him so much in my life!

Social media has been a transformative force in my teaching and my practice. It has been such a positive influence on the lives of teachers and students who leverage it for good.

We can cite such an instance as yet another reason to shy away from these platforms, or we can think about the fact that there is a whole generation of kids out there who have grown up on their own on social media, without adult mentoring.  I remind myself of the many students I know who are making the world a better place and using social media and technology to spread the message. Joshua Williams is one of them:


This is the future I choose to see. This is the future that is possible. On this Canadian Thanksgiving I am grateful for a community of learners who spread goodness and hope!

Social media & Tragedy

At 10 pm Central time last night, I was sitting in the Las Vegas airport waiting to board my flight home. I heard a particular sound like a round of ammunition firing, but surely I was mistaken; there are slot machines in the Las Vegas airport and what I was hearing was probably a peculiar version of a game. I’ve never been so wrong. I am still processing what happened and writing this is helping me to do that.

It had been an incredible weekend. I was honoured to present at the Cue Nevada conference. I met an amazing bunch of educators from Nevada and beyond, connected with so many people in my PLN, met some awesome students from the area who volunteered to help with the conference, and were on the student panel. I tweeted out my take-aways and captured a few moments on Instagram and Snapchat. I mention this because it means that my friends, family, and PLN knew I was in Vegas for the weekend.

That evening, the presenters were invited to dinner where we shared a few laughs and some camaraderie. I learned much about the Nevada schools from  the presenters there. My friend, Heidi Carr (who spearheading the organization of the conference) and I spent the day on Sunday as tourists. We visited the Hoover Dam, did a little shopping, checked out a few casinos and watched a Cirque de Soleil show. As she showed me  the sights in her beautiful city, I exclaimed, “How cool that you can choose to come downtown and experience this fun and excitement whenever you want to.”

En route to the airport, we saw a throng of people and heard the live Country Music playing. We paused and I opened my window to hear the music. In that moment, I caught sight of a young couple, in denim and cowboy boots walking towards the show. I don’t know what made me stop and study the young woman so intently: so obviously in love, so obviously enjoying the sights of Las Vegas as I had been, her eyes and hair shining brightly. Her silhouette now etched in my mind forever.

When we boarded the plane, we were told there was an incident that would prevent us from departing. A few whispers about a shooting started to spread. When I sat down, I jumped on Twitter and literally saw the events unfold.

We were asked to disembark the plane as we likely going to be grounded until morning. One of the passengers said that many concert goers had moved towards active runways so the airport had to literally shut down. Another passenger suggested that because we were so close to the venue, there was a concern of gunshots towards the plane. I have no idea how true any of this speculation was. I was, for all intents and purposes in the safest place in the city, but I felt nothing but safe.

We were called back to board the plane a short time after. They had apprehended the suspect and the airport was again operating. There was, by now a line up of planes on the tarmac looking for permission to take off. So many of the passengers started to contact loved ones, knowing that with the time difference, our families and friends in Toronto would be worried and we would be in the air and unreachable to assure them of our safety. I had a half-finished Instagram post for which I needed to now change the message.

I was disheartened by the tweets I was seeing. The tweets ranged in nature and included:

-“live” updates from news outlets

-an outpouring of concern and prayers

-political commentaries which were highly charged

-gratitude for the first responders: police, firefighters, and others

-the spreading of mis-information and inconsistent reports

-families asking to confirm the whereabouts of a loved one

-the posting of extremely sensitive materials

-information for blood donation sites 

-the creation of new accounts (Twitter bots) to spread hateful propaganda.

It is the good and the bad of social media  humanity. I used social media to ensure that my family and friends knew I was safe, and also received messages like this one from my favourite student:

And though I was safe, we now know how many families are being impacted by last night’s events.

Today, the children, who became so real to me and the educators in whom they are entrusted had to ensure that children feel safe in their own homes. This is no small task. If ever was a time to make the positives so loud, the negatives are impossible to hear (George Couros), it is now. People are hurting enough.  We need to ensure that what we share in person and on social media about any event, particularly a tragedy such as this, is accurate, and hopeful and that it inspires action to help (there is a need for donating blood for example).

When we have a class social media account, we can control what we see for our students. When we follow accounts like those listed on my Twitter lists, it is unlikely that kids will see any of the aftermath of this event or the ugliness that can be seen on Twitter. This, however, is not true for the kids who are accessing social media on their own or who are just talking about what they know on the playground. And this worries me.

So here are a few things that may help as we try to make sense of this tragedy and support our students to feel safe and empowered.

Reflect on News

Use it as an opportunity to talk about sharing only verified information and what credible news looks like. I saw this posted by Kathleen Currie Smith on Facebook and really appreciate her approach:

She says,

Today we learned of the devastating and sad news in Las Vegas and we keep the victims and their families in our thoughts. 

It is important to remember to be smart news consumers as events and facts are unfolding. Here are some tips:

1. Do not be constantly tuned in to the news, check in several times throughout the day. 

2. Check several credible news sources, do not solely* rely on social media for information.

3. Confirm that news outlets are reporting the same thing. Remember, news is a competition, they are trying to be the first to have the breaking story and while they strive to get it right, sometimes they make mistakes in their rush to be first.

4. DO NOT spread conspiracy theories or speculations on social media. Do NOT spread “fake news.” This hurts your reputation (your digital footprint) and harms society as a whole.

Bring Hope and take Hopeful action:

As educators (and as adults), we need to be creative and hopeful for our kids. We need to be constructive not destructive. We need to use every face to face and online opportunity to spread love, hope and hopeful action.

I think back to the Happy Jar activity I talk about in Social LEADia where Sara McCleod and her students, when they knew of a tragedy in Northern Saskatchewan, rallied to try to do something to take action to help, by creating a Happy Jar (I learned about it on Twitter and participated by adding my own inspiring message via Google Form on Twitter). They then delivered it to the community. When kids gather together for a common cause, it often strengthens the bonds within your own classroom and provides a hopeful outlet to their grief.

Hospitals need blood donated and there is a GoFund me account for victims. If students are particularly struck by the events, creating posters to rally help may just be helpful for them as well. Or how about thank you cards to the police force or emergency workers?

Ensure students feel safe and pay attention to children who worry

My daughter is a worrier.  We “protected” our daughter by trying to shelter her from any news and sometimes it worked. Other times, it was worse because other kids would share false information which made her more scared. At the end of the day, I think taking the approach that ensures kids feel safe in their classroom is best. But let’s face it, we aren’t trained to be counsellors (even though we so often are) This resource, Helping Children Cope  with useful links may help you to support students in need. If you know of others, I would love to hear about them.


I can’t stop thinking about those concert-goers who were just enjoying themselves. I think about how it could have easily been me or one of the people or loved ones of the many people I met this weekend. And I can’t stop thinking about and wondering where that young woman is today and if she is safe.

I know I will be hugging my family extra tightly today and trying to spread the positive as much as I can.

*I added the word solely