Tag Archives: digital leadership

Rethinking Student (Digital) Leadership and Digital Citizenship

In our increasingly digital and connected world, it is imperative that we teach our children to be responsible citizens–both online and face to face.  Online*, this means that they share appropriate stories and ideas with friends and family, give credit where credit is due, treat others with respect and report inappropriate behaviour.  All of these things contribute to having a positive digital online presence.  But while Digital Citizenship is about being a good citizen online Digital Leadership goes beyond this.  Here is the post in which I clarify this thinking.


When I first thought about this idea, defined here by George Couros , and then Sylvia Duckworth and I collaborated to visualized this idea, I looked at them as somewhat distinct from one another. Yet the more I meet some of these amazing student leaders who use technology to share learning, promote important causes, etc*… , and the more I see students engaged in some powerful connected learning, I recognize that perhaps it isn’t a linear list afterall.  This is what I’m now thinking (perhaps I’ll see if Sylvia has a better way to visualize this!).

Rethinking Digital Leadership

And perhaps Digital Citizenship envelops or circles the whole thing??

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if Digital Citizenship really needs to come first ? When I consider of some of some of the fear-mongering lessons and messages we give students without a balanced positive slant,  I really believe that these lessons should  (or need to) coincide with opportunities for digital leadership rather than be separated from them. We are kind of doing it wrong if we have a Digital Citizenship continuum in isolation from building in opportunities to learn in the space via connected experiences.  Check out this post by Andrew Campbell which also reinforces this idea.

I am thinking of this exciting project,  initiated by Calliope (founders Jennifer Williams & Fran Siracusa) of which I am honoured to be a part.

Inspire Passion via Online Collaboration

Students are inspired by Kharishma Baghani, a young Kenyan student who invented an inexpensive water filtration system and connect with her via Google Hangouts on Air (Stay tuned for lots more opportunities to do this live). Here is the GHOA with St. Cecilia School in Florida:

Students contribute their ideas to the collaborative Padlet.

Both of these activities provide opportunities for students to learn about ethical and courteous ways to communicate online (which should be an extension of how to cooperate and communicate face to face in the classroom).  Also, an explicit connection can be made to show how effectively Karishma is marketing the project, Matone de Chiwit (Drops of Life), and how well she is using social media Twitter and Facebook to promote awareness about her cause.

Teach Digital Citizenship with a Call to Action

As students learn more about this topic (through research), get to know and be inspired by Karishma, they are then encouraged to brainstorm ways in which they can use social media, and their own creativity to share their learning and promote awareness about water scarcity.

They will CREATE posters, podcasts, public service announcements, etc… And in this creation and sharing, there is the opportunity to talk about creation and credit of sources, of ways to communicate a message powerfully, of what information is private, how a message might be misconstrued on social media, how to use tone and persuasive techniques effectively. Any tool that is used for creation or sharing can be explicitly talked about (privacy settings, terms of use, audience, etc…) These lessons become authentic and in-the moment.

If students are under 13, the ability to share via a class Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook account can provide a powerful opportunity to recognize the power social media holds, while ensuring that students are not only in a guided environment, but that you are not breaching terms of service age restrictions.  If students are over 13, they should be using their own names and developing their own online presence, with continued guidance and support from the teacher.

AND when communicating this process with parents, they will be able to see their children inspired to help others and using social media ethically and responsibly to do this!

This is my current thinking.

You may argue that this is what a student leader (remove digital) looks like and I would say, absolutely EXCEPT today any leader needs to know how to make use of the digital realm.  You may also consider that not every student needs to or has to feel like they need to change the world, as Dean Shareski suggests here.  I would say that students should be given lots and varied opportunities to be inspired by others and to know that they can if they choose to.

What am I missing?  I would LOVE to have you challenge my thinking or present alternative points of view as I continue to flesh out my ideas about this important topic!

And of course, if you are interested in joining the Our Blue Earth project, please contact me, Fran Siracusa, or Jennifer Williams!

*The italicized statements were added after reading Stepan’s comment below.


If Everything is Social Media to teens…

I just read this excellent post by Carl Hooker, The Truth About Teens: Everything is Social Media, shared by George Couros. Hooker speaks about his experiences working with a group of students and the questions he asked them about their social media uses and habits.  You really should read the full post; the activities and responses are awesome!

A couple of the questions really resonates. One was whether or not they believed a deleted photo really disappeared and the other was about which apps kids were using including ones which parents should beware of.  I love the honesty of the kids.

What I found interesting:

-KiK was listed as a messaging tool in this list by the students, but not placed in the “beware” category.  This app has come under scrutiny for cyberbullying (Check out this CNN article) and when I hosted a panel of adults and teens, Tinder also came up as an app to be aware of.

-YikYak was listed (as perhaps it should be), and yet, as I learned from experience, that this is complicated.

One of the main conclusions that came out was that students are using platforms that would not necessarily be considered social media and using them to communicate with one another in similar ways to how they are using social media.

Obviously there are no right or wrong answers and each school community will have different experiences from which to draw their opinions.  It is however clear that there are a whole host of social media sites that can be used for nefarious reasons.  It’s not about the tool, but the user of the tool.  I can use YikYak (as my daughter does) to post silly puns about her day, or I can use it to demean someone annonymously.  I can use Twitter to promote awareness about an organization or an important cause, or I can use it to subtext and demoralize someone. And I can use Youtube to do the same thing.

Any social media tool can be used negatively or positively

And, if indeed teens use many spaces in the same way as they use social media, then is it really effective for us to spend so much time fear-mongering in schools about how bad social media is?  We arbitrarily block sites– I say arbitrarily because the list Hooker generated yielded some apps neither he nor I have heard of, so an IT Dept would not know to block it.  Shouldn’t we instead, be spending more of that time teaching kids how to communicate effectively online and in some of these spaces?

This is on my mind especially because of the events of the other day.  I tweeted out the link to a hashtag that kids had created for the Ontario Secondary School Literacy test. #osslt2016  My daughter and I got a real kick out of the very clever posts by students who had just written the test.  Even EQAO (the governing body overseeing the test) responded light-heartedly:

Then a friend of mine pointed out that there was an extremely inappropriate post in the feed. When I looked, I was mortified. Instinctively, I deleted my tweet and reported the tweet as offensive.  This student basically likened writing the test to wanting to be a suicide bomber and included a photo!

Then I took a closer look.  This was just a grade 10 kid trying to be funny and not really understanding the impact.  I looked at his Facebook page (easy enough to find) and realized from the very innocent profile and posts that he had just made a vast error in judgement.

I instinctively contacted him via Twitter.  It could have gone one of two ways: he could have responded maliciously, or he could have realized his error.  Here is how the exchange went:

Me: This is never ever appropriate. Nor is it funny.  And this tweet can come back to haunt you when you are looking for a job.

Student: (Liked, Retweeted) Thx

Me: You are welcome. Delete it and hopefully no one will see it for now. Good luck!

Student: Kk (Deleted the tweet)

If I wasn’t in this space, I would not have been able to help this student.

This experience has reaffirmed my conviction that we need to spend more time focusing on using social media in positive ways.  When we talk about social media, we can’t always use the fear narrative; but we need to be in these spaces to help students navigate the tricky waters!

Carl Hooker’s post and my own experience have me wondering:

Do we use Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc…in our teaching and learning ? Or are we blocking them and having kids communicate in these spaces on their own?

Do we talk to students about apps that worry them and brainstorm ways to turn possible negative experiences into positives?

Do we explicitly teach students how to comment effectively online, in a variety of places? Give them strategies to respond (or not respond) to inappropriate comments?  Give them challenges to respond positively to change the trajectory of negative posts?

Do we allow our students to comment on the Youtube videos they watch in class or do we just share the link ?   Or do we block Youtube altogether?

Do we help students in school develop an online presence so that when they are “googled” they have positives that outweigh some of the gaps in judgement?

We need to focus on Digital Citizenship AND Digital Leadership in school simultaneously.


The Connected Student

I have written several posts about the power of being a connected educator and its many benefits and so many of us on Twitter have been reaping the benefits for years!  I love this sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth:

Connected Educator

This has gotten me thinking that one of the crucial reasons we connect is to benefit our students, right?!

Isn’t it then imperative to connect them to one another in and outside of school?

This was the main message of Shannon Miller keynote to a group of Teacher-Librarians at ISTE based on her experiences in the Van Meter Library.

Giving Students access to technology is

The full video can be found here (fast forward to 10:15 for her keynote).  She is a champion for students and giving them opportunities to connect!

So what does the connected student look like and what are the benefits of having them collaborate globally?  Based on my observations of connected students, as well as those I’ve observed through presentations, or through some of the amazing teachers in my PLN who connect their students regularly, here are some of their characteristics:

Connected Students…

  • are more inclined to voice their opinions because they believe that their voices matter
  • practice online collaboration and communication skills for audiences beyond their teachers
  • understand how technology can connect them to experts and authors and have the confidence to reach out to them
  • utilize social media to create positive digital footprints
  • recognize the power of social media to make a difference, change the status quo
  • gain an understanding of other cultures and perspectives by building relationships and friendships with people from outside their own communities
  • know that there are many people who can help them solve a problem and many different ways to do so
  • are more engaged in school

Connecting with Experts, Connecting with Each other

Have you ever had a Skype or Google Hangout visit with an expert? It’s an amazing opportunity for kids to connect with each other and feel like a part of a greater community?  That’s what we did with our Google Hangout with Commander Hadfield.  We…

  1. Shared resources via Google Drive to build excitement about the visit.
  2. Had an elementary classroom connect with a high school to create a promo video
  3. Offered the opportunity for students throughout the District to submit a question via Google Form
  4. Offered the opportunity for students throughout the District to vote on the best questions  to ask the expert
  5. Connect classes on the day of the event via TodaysMeet or a similar back channel

Here is a link to the Google Hangout with Chris Hadfield!

Ideas for connecting your students this school year:

Start small.  Connect with another class in your District or with someone you know personally. I was impressed by this collaborative inquiry project by Jamie Weir and Daniel Ballantyne and the powerful experience that collaboration provided for their students.

Skype in the classroom is a great and simple way to begin to connect your students; Google Hangouts and Google Communities

Twitter hashtags  and your Twitter community can help make those initial connections.  Once a Twitter connection is established, classes can connect virtually via Google Apps for Education and/or Google Hangouts.

If you are an Ontario teacher, use the hashtag #Ontarioclassmatch, an idea inspired by Heather Theljsmeijer  who is also passionate about connected students to the world.

Padlet, Kahoot, TodaysMeet  Google Docs, Google Slides:  Basically, any tool that allows your students to participate online can also become a shared platform for local or global collaboration.

Join the Global Green Screen Project shared by Dr. Brad Gustafson in which participants will contribute a chapter to a video story.  Or create a similar project in your District.

Join International Dot Day based on the book by Peter Reynolds (in September)

Harness the power of blogs (Mrs. Yollis’ class blog is a great resource and Rusul Alrubail has a wonderful resource for blogging with ELL learners) or utilize apps like Write About that connect students through writing.

Check out the Not Perfect Hat Club Global Collaboration project for students aged 6-12!

Have students choose a book from an author who is on Twitter so they can connect with the author.

Jennifer Williams and Fran Siracusa are passionate about connecting students to the world. Check out this article, Collaborative Learning Spaces:  Classrooms that connect to the world and their ideas for using Periscope to connect classrooms to the world.  Their company. Calliope connects classrooms to the world virtually, but also connects international classrooms through global projects, travel, and professional development.

Jen McCray has created this collaborative doc for teachers interesting in connecting their classes.  Why not addi your name to this Google Spreadsheet.?

Craig Kemp is passionate about opening the walls of our classrooms to create a Global Classroom for students.  He has lots of inspiring ideas for connecting students as does Vicky Davis who is an incredible advocate and resource for blogging.

Would love to hear about your success stories connecting students and the positive lessons they’ve learned as a result!

Maybe our goal this coming school year could be to connect our students one more time than we did last year.  I think the result would be worth the effort!

Aviva Dunsiger reminds us  to  begin with Curriculum Expectations in our planning or we risk losing opportunities to make stronger links to learning (see comments below)

Check out this amazing visualization of the connected student by Sylvia Duckworth based on this ideas in this post!

Connected Student


Big Idea at ISTE2015: Student Agency

I was fortunate to be able to attend the ISTE conference in Philadelphia.  There were over 15,000 educators there, so you can imagine the passion, excitement, and learning that happened!  I will share the tools I learned about over the course of the summer, but in this post, I want to reflect on the presentations that had the most significant impact on me.  Perhaps it is because I have been focusing on digital leadership and student voice in my own work,  but the big idea which seemed to be an over-arching theme  at ISTE for me, was the notion of student agency which I heard a few times at ISTE and which is articulated nicely in this post.  The idea being that when students are given autonomy and power over their own learning, they are in control of their own development and therefore more invested in the process of learning. This is not a new idea in Education–it’s been a buzzword for a long time now, but it’s one thing to talk about it, and another to see examples of this in action.  Below are the presentations and the examples which made this idea come to life for me.

Jennifer Scheffer, Panelist for ISTE 1:1 PLN — Challenges and Solutions for Large-Scale PD

Jennifer Scheffer (@jlscheffer), a Technology Integration Specialist/Mobile Learning Coach for Burlington Public Schools, located in Burlington, Massachusetts spoke about a unique course she created in which students run a Help Desk to assist other students and teachers.   This was perhaps one of the most significant examples of the power of student agency.  Students are not only assisting other students with tech applications at their own school, but they are interviewing industry people, and using social media to create a powerful digital footprints.  They are true Digital Leaders!  Check out the link to the Burlington Publish School Help Desk Site for a glimpse into what this looks like.

Here’s Jenn’s ISTE Ignite where she encapsulates the BHS Help Desk program in 5 minutes/20 slides:

What is the impact of this program? This powerful video reflection by one of her students says it all.

I’ve reached out to Jennifer, who has been amazingly helpful, and hope to explore what this could look like in our District.  Surely, there is potential for the Help Desk idea to happen anywhere?

Shannon Miller, ISTE Librarians Network Annual Breakfast Keynote.

A Teacher-Librarian extraordinaire, and Tech Integration Specialist, Shannon Miller (@shannonmmiller) has made connecting students a priority at Van Meter in Iowa.  She engages students in opportunities to connect with experts and other students around the world and advocates that it is important for students to have access to other people in the world.  One of the most powerful testimonials came from a young 6th grade student whose school experience was transformed when she connected with an author on Skype.  Meridan has gone on to create her own blog, Meridan’s Little Voice,  in which she showcases tech tools and inspires other students.  Check it out here.

In her keynote, Miller focuses on the many ways in which connecting students and giving them a voice is not only rewarding, but should be a priority for educators.

(Fast forward to 10:15) The quality isn’t the best, but it the message is worth the effort.

Miller’s blog can be found here. 


Chris Lehmann and Diana Laufenberg:  Transforming Schools into Modern Learning Environments

Chris (@chrislehmann) Diana (@dlaufenberg) of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia spoke to the Inquiry process and how it has transformed learning for students at SLA.

I was completely inspired by the way in which inquiry-based learning has created a place for students to take control of their own learning.  One example Lehmann & Laufenberg showcased centered around the inquiry question, “How are local communities shaped by history?” Students were to create a hypertextual narrative telling the story of a building within their zip code.  They selected a building with a name on it and had to research the origin of that name.  The results?  Incredible and meaningful.  Check out their CAPStone Project in which students explore the questions,  “How do we learn?” “What can we create?” and “What does it mean to lead” through a self-selected and designed independent project.

I am excited about exploring the potential of Inquiry-based learning in secondary schools in our District and Diana has offered to lend a hand!

George Couros  The Innovator’s Mindset

George (@gcouros), whose presentations are always so dynamic and engaging (in fact people were pressed up against the back doors to hear his talk), speaks to the Innovator’s Mindset, which is intricately connected to giving students opportunities to not just “do school” but to become participants in what that school could look like.  He advocates that leaders spend time in schools to listen to students and what they have to say.  To me, Couros’ focus on relationships & the innovative leader are the essential ingredients: only by establishing a context of trust by leaders in Districts and schools can innovation flourish as in the examples above. Each of the presenters had Superintendents & Principals that were champions for them so that innovation could happen.  Couros resources can be found here.

Everyone who attended ISTE brought their own context and experience to the sessions they attended. I’m sure that what I got out of these sessions, may be completely different from the learning of others.   Feel free to peruse the #ISTE2015 hashtag for other perspectives and check out for post-ISTE reflections at Tech & Learning.