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.
- 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.
- 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.
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,
“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?
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?
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!
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:
- 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.
— Mr. Pamayah (@Mister_Library) October 3, 2017
— Mr. Pamayah (@Mister_Library) October 5, 2017
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 http://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators
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.
*Sees that World War III is trending*
*Closes Twitter* pic.twitter.com/WrvU5JgaP5
— Ryan Messana (@R_Messana9) October 9, 2017
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!
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:
— Olivia Van Ledtje (@thelivbits) October 2, 2017
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
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
I often blog about my bad days or my short-comings or my learning reflections (often about social media). Today I am writing to share my awesome day!
I decided to change my Library Orientation into a Breakout EDU. A few teacher-librarians I know had done this, Thanks (Nikki Robertson & Shauna Young for sharing). Last year, I was brand-new and advised to keep Orientation as is (I did make it mine and added a Kahoot), but I was not happy with it at all.
Introduce students to the services and resources I offer in the Library by allowing them to DISCOVER these through fun, interactive challenges. So I hid puzzles in books, created posters with hidden clues and got them to answer questions on a Google Form which revealed their word-combination when they submitted the form. It was a really nice mix of traditional and digital Breakout components. I am not going to lie, I was super nervous. You see, unlike a classroom teacher, I have no real rapport with these students coming into the Library. I don’t know their names or their learning needs.
I used two boxes (so really I created 2 different but similar games) and was very explicit about the fact that everyone had to participate and that students could not go to the next lock before helping everyone else along. Literally every student was working on it. I was giddy! There was such a positive energy and such great collaboration. Some of the students I thought I might have to prod to participate, completely surprised me!
It provided an entry point for a variety of different learners, got them out of their seats, and then back on task, and at the end of the time, they felt the exhilaration of success (and got a lollipop 🙂 )
— Cardinal Carter CHS (@ccarterchs) September 13, 2017
Here is what Group A clues looked like.
How often do students thank you at the end of a class? Well, today, the whole class thanked me, and several students came up to me separately to thank me.
At the end, I made a point of asking them questions about what they learned and I would say it was equal, if not MORE than the learning shared last year during a web-search-type Orientation.
Here is a post I wrote several years ago: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: Escape Room in Education, which is the most viewed ever on my website. It is still as relevant today as it was then.
If you haven’t tried Breakout EDU or Breakout EDU digital, you definitely need to!
I recently created an e-book which I would like to offer to people who subscribe to my blog.
After several recommendations, Matt Miller suggested Mail Chimp. Perfect and easy enough, right?
Well, maybe not. He gave me an overview of how he used it and told me how to get started and he suggested Google Slides for the e-book. And so I set out to work on it. I read the instructions, watched the tutorials. I spent soooo much time working on creating it to my satisfaction. I then asked friends and my husband to test it.
You may be thinking right now, really? You are supposed to be tech-savvy. I am, but new learning is always hard for me. Is it for you?
I walked away several times and then came back to it. I must admit that I cursed a few times. I obviously wanted it to look good because potentially many people would see it.
Through it all I wondered:
How often do we ask our learners (students and staff) to Create, Iterate, Tweak, Publish, for an authentic audience?
What opportunities do we give students to learn things which are challenging and yet achievable? (think Vygotsky’s theory of proximal development)
What is their motivation to see it through? How might we create opportunities for intrinsic motivation?
How often do we jump in with the answers, penalize, or criticize our learners for not readily “getting it” when they are learning something new?
How do we encourage and make time for the feedback loop so learners can make what they are working on better?
Click here to subscribe to check out the finished product and to receive the free e-book I created to help you empower students to leverage social media for digital leadership.
If you have any feedback for me, please provide it in the comments.
As someone who is advocating for the use of social media with students, I am somewhat disheartened by the way I have seen educators speak to one another; especially lately.
It is healthy (and necessary) to engage in critical discourse about ideas, but it is never ok to attack people and get personal. It is also not ok to “subtweet”. If you are going to insult someone personally, not including their name, does not make it ok.
One of the things I advocate in the classroom is to consider multiple perspectives before taking any conversation to social media. Do we remember that there are people at the other end of our disdainful comments and criticisms? Do we consider the point of view of others? How they might be affected? Are we careful to check our own biases?
Our kids are watching. Let’s be sure to set a good example.