Category Archives: #socialLEADia

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.

Wakelet

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!

Sources

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.

Gratitude…

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.

Kindness…

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.

References:

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. https://doi-org.uproxy.library.dc-uoit.ca/10.1007/s10763-011-9293-0

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

http://www.edugains.ca/resourcesLIT/AdolescentLiteracy/Vision/AdolescentLiteracyGuide_Interactive.pdf

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

from http://www.calledtobecatholic.com/2016/10/31/hello-world/

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

Report). Toronto: Canadian Education Association. cea-ace.ca/sites/cea-ace.ca/files/cea-2009-wdydist.pdf

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?
Thanks, 
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.
Best,
Jennifer
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.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Source:

ISTE Standards FOR EDUCATORS. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2017, from http://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators

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!

New Learning is Hard

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.

Creating a Culture of Kindness

I spent all day yesterday curled up in a blanket reading Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. It is an older book, but I had never read it before and wanted to read it before the movie came out in November.

I cried about a dozen times. I didn’t make dinner or clean my house. I just read and read and cried. It made me think about several things.

  1. Kids have been cruel since the beginning of time
  2. Bullying usually happens under the radar of a teacher
  3. Many bystanders often don’t stand up to the person bullying for fear of reprisal

I have heard so many people saying that cell phones are banned at their school because of “cyberbullying”. And though I am not saying cyberbullying does not exist (it is so much easier to torment someone anonymously), I know that so much cruelty actually happens in person first.

I know this.

I lived this.

I was recently given the picture below by my mom. I have very few other photos of me from elementary school. If you look carefully, you may notice my eye is slightly off. All I remember about this very important day (In Catholicism, your first communion is an important sacrament. In an Italian family apparently you are supposed to look like a bride), is the hours the photographer had me pose until my eye looked somewhat “normal”. My dress was itchy and it was hot and because we didn’t have digital cameras back then he just took picture after picture hoping one would turn out ok (talk about sharing an edited version of yourself even back then).

I really didn’t stand a chance at fitting in or being popular. Although my face wasn’t “deformed” like the fictitious August Pullman, in the story Wonder, many people would often ask me what was wrong with me. Or “Why are you looking over there when I am right here?”  It didn’t help that I entered junior kindergarten not speaking a word of English and that I wore glasses with ultra-thick lenses. It also didn’t help that we didn’t have a lot of money and that my mom made many of my clothes.

So it’s no surprise that I spent many a day sitting by myself, the butt of every cross-eyed joke, taunted and humiliated for many, many years. My teachers’ responses over the years? Mostly teachers urged my classmates to “be nice to Jennifer”. That really helped. I remember one day in particular when a teacher urged people to play with me at recess. That was the day when my classmates invited me to play hide and go seek. I was “it” and it wasn’t until the end of recess that I realized that they were off secretly playing another game. Another incident that stands out in my memory is when our class got smelly markers for the first time. Remember those smelly markers? Do they still have them? I was invited to sniff a marker .  “Julia” went around a group of students inviting everyone to smell the blueberry marker, only when she got to me, she “slipped” and it went up my nose. An unfortunate accident which was utterly humiliating and had me sneezing blue for a week. The glint in her eye and the snickering of everyone around me showed me that there was nothing accidental about this incident. I could recount dozens of other stories which are etched in my memory.

All of those memories came flooding back when I read the book. Then I read the Professional Advisory put out by the Ontario College of Teachers: Responding to the Bullying of students which tackles bullying (both face to face and online), and includes a self-reflection assessment which poses some good questions.  These points resonated with me and can be applied to both online and offline situations:

INTERVENE EARLY:

Research shows that bullying stops in fewer than 10 seconds – 57 per cent of the time – when someone intervenes.15 Adult supervision and increased presence can prevent bullying. Intervene early and often so that students understand social responsibility and the importance of standing up for themselves and others.

DETECTION
ASK YOURSELF:

How do I detect bullying?

How do I recognize power imbalances among students of all ages that might lead to bullying?

How do I spot behaviour occurring outside the classroom or online that affects students?

How do I respond to smaller, subtle acts such as verbal slights, use of derogatory language and cutting humour that may lead to more harmful behaviour?

How do I encourage students to safely disclose bullying behaviour?

CAN YOU SAY THIS WITH CONFIDENCE?

My words and actions show that I treat students with care, respect, trust, and integrity and that I expect the same from them.

You can teach whatever content you want, but if students don’t feel safe and valued, it won’t matter. Taking time to create a culture of kindness in your classroom will help you save time in the long run.

A few ideas

RJ Palacio’s Precepts from the book, Wonder

The teacher in the book, Mr. Brown, asks his students to free-write based on precept prompts. Here are a couple of examples:

  • When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” —Dr. Wayne Dyer
  • “Your deeds are your monuments.” —Inscription on ancient Egyptian tomb
  • “Fortune favors the bold.” —Virgil
  • “No man is an island, entire of itself.” —John Donne

I really like this idea. Students could use Canva, Google Draw or a paper sketchnote to extend their idea and share and comment on one another’s ideas. They can share these  via the school and/or class social media accounts. They can find their own to share. This could become a weekly or monthly routine in the class.

Classroom Committees

My friend, Robert Cannone,  uses the idea of Classroom Committees. That is, student teams have responsibilities in the class on a rotating basis. They range from eco-team, to public relations team, to classroom design team. What impressed me most is how one of his students, Catherine, describes the experience based on the way Rob :

“Teams are like a puzzle, every person is a piece of the puzzle, and everyone is needed to complete the puzzle.”

Creating a culture in your classroom where everyone feels valued, can go a long way to supporting students who might be on the fringe of being accepted.

Compliment Wall, Kindness Cards

When I met Matt Soeth, from #ICANHELP he shared the power of a compliment wall which serves to create a positive culture in a school or classroom. The idea is that students create a physical board with post-it notes with compliments which students can take and share when they feel like someone needs it. You can extend this idea by creating kindness cards which students anonymously give each other; making note of which students are not receiving one. Extend both of these ideas virtually by inviting students to engage in kindness challenges online through their personal accounts or class social media accounts. If you posit social media of a place where you can “improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others (Couros, 2013), then that is the behaviour you will begin to see there.

Check out the resources I created to complement Chapter 10 of Social LEADiaInstil Empathy, Justice, and Character . where there are lots more ideas about creating a culture of kind in your class or school.

What are your ideas for creating a safe community within your classroom?

3 Ways to Save Today’s Generation

Do you honestly think that I am going to help you save our youth in this post? The real question is, do you, as many other adults believe today’s youth needs saving and the future is in tenuous hands?  Were you drawn to the title because it reaffirms your beliefs about this generation?

My post really should be called, 3 Ways we can address some problematic issues around cell phone and social media use.

I often share the example above. It is seemingly what people believe is wrong with today’s generation. And yet, the real story, is that the students were using the museum’s app to learn more about the painting. The media continues to circulate articles about how this is a lost generation. The most recent, an article in the Atlanta, Have Smartphones destroyed a Generation?

I was glad to see Patrick Larkin, a progressive and innovative superintendent, ask questions about the content of the article in this post to educators, We Need to Talk About Smartphones, and this post to families, rather than accepting it at face value and doing nothing.

The problem with these types of articles is they often paint issues around social media and cell phone use as very a black & white issues, and blame social media use for just about every ill in society. It then becomes so easy to share articles and bemoan the state of the world, rather than use our use our critical thinking lens.

In my book, Social LEADia, I assert that what we call an addiction to social media, is more a dependence not on the device itself, but the friends to which they provide access. This is a main theme of the research and work of danah boyd, in It’s Complicated.

The addiction narrative is quite strong throughout the parent and educator circles of which I am a part, and I am not saying that there isn’t truth to it. What I am saying, is that articles and posts which provide extreme points of view do not help!  Look at the article which literally states in its headline: Giving your child a smartphone is like giving them a gram of cocaine, says top addiction expert.

The article, published by the Independent also includes the subtitle, “Harley Street clinic director Mandy Saligari says many of her patients are 13-year old girls who see sexting as normal.” and of course, Ms Saligari has an extreme opinion on the matter, she only sees problem cases. My daughters and I had a very frank conversation about this idea which is not at all a reality for them and their friends.

What is revealed in near the end of the article is this:

“If children are taught self-respect they are less likely to exploit themselves in that way,” said Ms Saligari. “It’s an issue of self-respect and it’s an issue of identity.”

The real issue! Sending inappropriate pictures isn’t caused by having a smartphone.

So how to do unpack some of the issues so as to shed light on what we can do differently?

Use social media as a springboard to teach persuasive writing & critical thinking

A lesson I often did when I was teaching persuasive writing in English over a decade ago, was that I showed the students a letter that had been written to Ann Landers bemoaning today’s generation. It called youth selfish, stupid, and lazy. It went on to list everything that was wrong with youth (well before smartphones). Their assignment was to write a rebuttal using a variety of persuasive techniques.  The students were so offended and so were extremely happy to write back. One thing is clear: every generation believes the current generation to be inferior to theirs.

Show students some of the headlines,show them the articles. Then have students write a response to the source. Today, it is so much easier to send their letters to a real & authentic audience than it was back when I did this.

Another great thing to do is have students deconstruct the logical fallacies an article.   Noah Geisel did a great job deconstructing the article, Facebook and Twitter “harm young people’s mental health” in his post, “Can adults with college degrees fall for fake news too?

Start Conversations about Attention and Balance

I see a whole generation of kids who have been navigating online spaces almost exclusively on their own because we have refused to go there in school. Our current narrative prevents us from having conversations; instead we lecture and instill fear and teens, especially those at risk, retreat farther and farther away. Or we ban devices to avoid the problem altogether. And clearly, it’s not working for many.

This article shared by Kathleen Currie Smith, What Social Media and today’s generation did for my teenage daughter really gets at assumptions.  In it, the author talks about her concern with her daughter’s selfie-use and her apathetic friends, only to realize that she may have been wrong when her daughter is home sick and her “Snapchat” friends support her and cheer her up in ways she wouldn’t have imagined. This part stands out for me:

These kids proved me wrong over and over all week long. It was a humbling experience to say the least. Maybe all this technology, Snapchat, texting and selfies aren’t making them all crazy, self-centered bullies. It’s giving them access to each other in ways that we didn’t have growing up and maybe that’s not always a bad thing. I know that sometimes social media is abused and used in hateful ways but I’ve learned this week that sometimes it’s used in the sweetest, most generous ways.

Nonetheless, we know that balance, when it comes to cell phone use and social media are extremely important.

I really like this rubric (please do not use this as an evaluation tool) as a springboard for conversations with students about what fair and reasonable expectations look like. I know at my house, we do not allow phones at the dinner table or in the bedroom. These rules have been in place for years because as a family we value dinner conversations and sleep is extremely important for healthy kids and adolescents. Everything else is an in-the-moment conversation as needed.  A classroom is like a family and expectations that are co-constructed are extremely important for developing a healthy awareness of students’ own media use.

Use Digital Leadership as a framework for teaching and learning using social media

What if we looked at the devices in kids hands as opportunities to make the lives and circumstances of others better (George Couros). I’ve written a whole book on my ideas for this one because I have met so many students who are exceptional leaders in person, and who leverage social media and technology to lead the way for us. When I look at Joshua Williams, Olivia Van Ledtje, Curran Dee, Hannah Alper, Braeden Mannering Quinn, Aidan Aird, and the many other students  (follow them here) I have had the opportunity to get to know and others whom I continue to meet, I recognize that focusing on what our kids can be doing on social media will go a long way.

Together we can help students (who don’t already) see that they can use social media to:

  • Learn and share learning
  • Stand up for causes that are important to them
  • Be a more positive influence in the lives of others.

Let’s model what it means to be a positive force for change.

Let’s not take complex issues and over-generalize.

Let’s listen closely, ask critical and clarifying questions, and give our kids the benefit of the doubt once in a while.

You may be very surprised by what you see and learn.

I am confident that this generation of kids is more than alright; but like every generation before them, some of them just need some guidance from adult mentors.