Muddling through the blogosphere

September 17, 2015
by blogwalker

“Oh no they didn’t!” – Modeling good digital citizenship

I blog often about digital citizenship topics. Part of my day job (technology integration specialist for the Elk Grove Unified School District) involves supporting the teaching of digital citizenship across grade levels and subject areas. Beyond the school day, I co-curate the Digital ID Project.

Back to my day job. For the past 7 years, as the co-coordinator of our district-wide digital citizenship program, I’ve teamed with our very talented graphic designer and web specialist, Kathleen Watt, on all components of the program. We have written this post together.

If you visit our Digital Citizenship website, you will see a graphic, created by Kathleen, to show visitors at a glance the four areas of digital citizenship we focus on (cyberbullying, building positive digital footprints, respecting intellectual property, and protecting online privacy).

This post is in response to the need to teach – and model – respect for intellectual property. More specifically, it is our reaction to Digital Citizenship and Copyright Stations, a post we came upon this morning via the wonderful, timely DigCit Daily. We are always looking for new ideas for teaching about copyright, since our teachers often share that they are trying to build their comfort levels in teaching about intellectual property rights and responsibilities.

To see one of our digital citizenship images copied without crediting the source was disappointing – and ironic, considering the image is being used as part of another district’s digital citizenship program. A quick reverse image search on Google turned “disappointing” into “troubling.” We find it hard to believe that more than a few educators have taken the image without attributing it back to Elk Grove – all for the purpose of promoting their own digital citizenship programs. (Shout out to the Plumas Lake School for crediting the source!)

We’ve created the Oh no they didn’t! slideshow to show our reaction, reflection, and next steps in dealing with the apparently very real issue of educators perhaps teaching, but not modeling, respect for intellectual property.

September 16, 2015
by blogwalker

Opportunities for students to practice digital & global citizenship

As we head into the new school year, I wanted to promote several awesome opportunities for students to tackle current issues and make their voices heard … and build their digital footprints and ePortfolios in the process.


Image from the Aikuma Project

Aikuma Project – For the past couple of years, I’ve co-facilitated an oral histories project for my school district to preserve the stories from a little known chapter in the Vietnam War: the Secret War in Laos. And that is how Robyn Perry, a recent graduate from Berkeley’s School of Information, found me. Robyn and Dr. Steven Bird are committed to preserving vanishing world languages. In Googling “Mien,” she came across the Time of Remembrance website. We’ve connected several times via Google Hangouts to talk about ways a K12 school district and two university researchers might support our mutual commitment to preserving the stories – and languages – of the Mien refugees, many of whom have resettled in the Sacramento area.

Part of Steve and Robyn’s work is the deployment of Aikuma, a free Android App for recording and translating spoken language. The app allows you to make your own recordings, share them, and translate recordings into other languages.

A special feature of Aikuma is its voice-driven translation mode. Hold the phone to your ear and listen, and interrupt to give a commentary or translation. The phone records what you say and lines it up with the original. Now the meaning is also preserved.”

I’m hoping to encourage Mien students in my district, to interview and record their parents, grandparents, and community elders and then contribute these primary resources, recorded in their native language, to the Aikuma project. There is a very good chance that in the process of interviewing Mien refugees, besides preserving history, culture, and a possibly vanishing language, students will also learn about the viewpoints of individuals whose stories might not otherwise appear in their textbooks.  Equally important, they will be practicing digital and global citizenship.


Image via KQED Do Now

KQED Do Now: Would You Welcome Refugees to Your Community? – I’m a big-time fan of KQED’s stellar program for engaging students, via twitter, in shared conversations on both local and global topics. Given the current Syrian refugee crisis, I cannot think of a more timely way to empower students as digital and global citizens who are informed on the issues and challenges faced by refugees.

KQED provides the background resources and the structure for posting diverse opinions, thereby providing a virtual student toolkit for building active citizenship skills.

PSAcontest (1)Digital ID – How about a Digital Citizenship PSA Challenge to jump start conversations in the new school year on what it means to be a positive, contributing citizen in all the communities to which our students belong, both face-to-face and online? With a December 15 deadline, there is still plenty of time for students to create and submit (through you), a PSA (up to 90 seconds) on issues of challenging cyberbullying, building digital footprints, respecting intellectual property, and protecting online privacy & security.




February 20, 2013
by blogwalker

Upstanders, Not Bystanders – A call to digital writers

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Albert Einstein

In my workshops with teachers, I illustrate Einstein’s quote with the Bully Bystander PSA and Margaret Mead’s with the Price of Silence PSA. Both videos show that, despite the gnawing, gripping, disheartening feeling that any form of bullying is really not OK, it takes the tremendous courage of a single individual to be the first one to cross the line from bystander to upstander. These are the stories we need to celebrate and share!

As a co-curator of the Digital ID project, I invite you and your students to step up to a global microphone and share, via VoiceThread, what it means to be an upstander, not a bystander.

October 14, 2012
by blogwalker

Teaching Resilience – How parents & teachers can help stop cyberbullying

The most painful parts of watching Netsmartz‘s powerful video Your Photo Fate are the last three clips, where we watch the facial expressions change on the boy who is a target of cyberbullying, followed by the his mother’s fallen expression, and his father’s heart-sick look.

In my job as a district technology integration specialists, I am often invited to give parent workshops on digital citizenship, with cyberbullying being the topic parents most want to discuss. I’m grateful to be able to direct parents to excellent free online resources, such as Common Sense Media’s Standing Up, Not Standing By – Cyberbullying Kit for PTA leaders. The kit includes one of my favorite tip sheets for parents, providing  both background on cyberbullying and boiling it down to five essential tips to prevent cyberbullying before it happens:

Teach your kids empathy. Nothing drives home a point faster than walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. If your kids truly understand what someone else is going through, they’re less likely to bully someone — or passively witness others being bullied.

Help kids understand the line between funny and cruel. Kids’ online communication is often purposely ambiguous or accidentally cruel — both of which can lead to misunderstandings. If drama starts brewing, ask your kid to call or speak face to face with their friend to clear it up.

Make sure they talk to someone (even if it’s not you). As kids enter the middle school years, their circle of friends and trusted adults widens. Kids need a responsible adult to confide in — their school counselor, their music teacher, even the parent of a friend.Talk to your kid about who they can go to if trouble is brewing.

Help your kid be an upstander — not a bystander. Kids are hesitant to get involved, in case the bully turns their sights on them. But there are ways to allow your kid to work behind the scenes to reach out to the victim, get an adult involved, and prevent more cruel behavior.

Show your kid how to stop it. Tell kids not to respond or retaliate. Not feeding the bully can stop the cycle. And — if anything does happen — save the evidence.”

This morning, thanks to an email from Natalie Bernasconi  (Digital-ID co-curator), I read Esther Cepeda’s Defining ‘bullying’ Down article.  Just as Common Sense Media has articulated the importance of teaching empathy, Cepeda identifies an equally key concept parents – and educators – should be promoting: resilience.

More and more scientific evidence is pointing to resiliency — the ability to overcome adversity by using learned personal strengths such as independence, initiative, creativity and humor — as a key factor in reducing risky behaviors and increasing academic achievement in adolescents.

But we don’t teach resiliency in schools. Instead, society consistently reinforces the notion that every slight, every discomfort, every put-down or rejection is worthy of an outpouring of sympathy for a wronged victim. We’re teaching that mantra in schools and in workplace harassment seminars, and it encourages people who feel uncomfortable to turn on a perceived oppressor.

Guess who this harms? Not those who crave attention, sympathy or the spotlight, but the quiet among us who haven’t yet found a way to stand up to the honest-to-goodness bullies in their lives”

In looking over the Digital ID project’s Digital Citizenship Glossary, we have defined empathy (Common Sense Media’s first tip), but not resilience. My goal this week is to add not only the definition (text and audio file), but also find a short video or two to make this abstract concept more tangible.

Natalie and I came together as co-creators and curators of the Digital ID project through as long-time affiliation with the National Writing Project and our 2011 participation in the Krause Center for Innovation’s MERIT program.  As educators, we are both committed to teaching for social justice, and, therefore, frequently ask ourselves and colleagues, “How do you teach resilience?”  If you visit the Curriculum Collaborations page on the Digital ID wiki, you will see that we believe one important step is to provide our students with many samples, both fiction and non-fiction, of heroism and survival.  And from there, the next step is help students see how the ability of real-life or fictional characters to actively take steps to overcome often insurmountable challenges might help them deal with the very real challenges so many of them face before, during, and after school hours.

Any suggestions for short videos or other resources for teaching about resilience would be much appreciated!

July 22, 2012
by blogwalker

Learning to “Flex our fair use muscles”

I’m a huge fan of YouTube. I really appreciate some of the digital citizenship/media literacy videos they’ve created and shared this year, such as Detecting Lies and Staying True.  This is one of several that I’ve embedded into the Digital ID project wiki because in 2 minutes it lays out the need for students to question information, an essential (digital) literacy skill.

I was therefore excited to delve into the lessons YouTube  just released as part of their free digital citizenship curriculum.  The one area of digital citizenship I find teachers are the least comfortable discussing or teaching is the fine line between copyright and fair use.  I was hoping that YouTube would have a content-rich, yet straight-forward piece that teachers would feel comfortable using with their students, similar to style of Detecting Lies and Staying True.

Maybe it was a mistake to start with the Fair Use Section of YouTube’s curriculum. But I did – and was frankly, well, disappointed by the lack of content. And the videos are weak.  Perhaps the fact that YouTube did not produce either Fair Use & Copyright or Legal Information  is part of the problem.

I suspect the bigger problem is that there are not yet enough advocates for fair use for educators jumping in to produce informative, student-friendly guides and videos on the topic….and for a good reason: fair use, unlike copyright, is a little messy to explain. In my current job as a tech integration specialist, I often receive questions from teachers about fair use, generally related to projects their students are working on that will eventually move beyond the walls of the classroom to an authentic audience. I no longer provide teachers with Hall Davidson’s Copyright and Fair Use chart, which, unfortunately, even though the title refers to the chart as “guidelines,” the opening sentence states that the chart “was designed to inform teachers of what they may do under the law.” So it sort of sounds like law, no? (Note: Hall Davidson has since made several videos on fair use. He mentions the misinterpretation of “guidelines” for legal policy.)

Although the chart does eliminate much of the messiness of fair use, it does not provide students with any understanding of the original intent of copyright, as stated in the U.S. Constitution, or their rights to claim fair use, as spelled out in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976. A much better guide for teachers (and where I learned about Section 107) is the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy (and accompanying slideshow). Thanks to the on-going work and commitment of Renee Hobbs and Kristin Hokanson, more and more educators, including myself, feel confident to help teachers and students understand both their responsibilities and their rights when it comes to using copyrighted materials for school-related projects.

I’ve had the good fortunate over the past few years to participate in several events with Renee and Kristin.  I’ve made progress: I’m now to the point where I actually see the “messiness” of fair use as a good thing – as a process that requires critical thinking and promotes media literacy. Kristin’s Reasoning Tool for Fair Use and her scenarios are great starting points for classroom discussions on what constitutes fair use and how to construct an argument, on a case-per-case basis. It is through discussion opportunities on such pertinent, timely topics that students become active, contributing (digital) citizens.

In addition to Renee’s and Kristin’s resources, I’m very grateful to Common Sense Media for stepping beyond the artificial percentages of the Copyright and Fair Use chart and crafting outstanding lessons that align with ISTE NETS, as well as the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy. Check out, for instance, Common Sense Media’s Rework, Reuse, Remix lesson for grades 6-8. The two lead up lessons provide students with the background on copyright issues. They are well-prepared to then head into this lesson and “expand their understanding of fair use, apply it to case studies, and create an original work of fair use.” Thank you, Common Sense Media.

I completely understand that YouTube is constantly having to remove videos that are clearly in copyright violation. But, at the same time, when I re-watch 3 of my favorite long-standing samples of remix + a newcomer (listed below) still, thankfully, hosted by YouTube, I feel the need to speak out and request policies that allow and invite our students to collaborate on a remix….already knowing they will raise the bar on this 21st century genre:

I honestly don’t mean to criticize YouTube. Their venue is an incredible teaching resource, and I very much appreciate their responsiveness to educators.  As I mentioned above, YouTube content rightfully occupies a chunk of real estate on the Digital ID wiki. My concern is simply with Fair Use, one tiny piece of their digital citizenship curriculum.  But given how many times over the last 72 hours I’ve seen links to their digital citizenship curriculum come into my Twitter feed, my concern is that school districts and sites that are just now waking up to newest CIPA requirements may opt for using – and limiting themselves to – this curriculum since the topics do address the three required CIPA components: Internet safety, appropriate online behavior, and cyberbullying – even though the depth and breadth fall way short of what Common Sense Media offers.

I hope administrators and teachers will create policies that guide students in the ethical use of intellectual property – in ways that do not shut down creativity and innovation. Although legal mandates differ from state to state and country to county, I believe strategies, best practices, and policies for teaching our students respect for intellectual property – including allowances for fair use – are topics worthy of both local and international conversations.

How does your school district educate students about copyright law and restrictions while encouraging them to, as Renee Hobbs puts it, “flex their fair use muscles” ?



May 26, 2012
by blogwalker

Connected Learning – A huge Web 2.0 benefit

Last week I worked with two groups of 8th grade students: one group at a middle school in my district; the other, at a small parochial school “across the tracks.” The project was to help students at both school sites take poetry they had created as part of the I’m American Too project and to catapult their voices beyond the walls of their classrooms and onto the Digital ID wiki, a collaborative project that strives to connect core curriculum with issues of (digital) citizenship.

Right off the bat, the common thread was two outstanding teachers, both teaching at sites that provide rich, nurturing learning environments. But since the two had never met, nor even heard of each other’s schools, I assumed there would be no student connections. I was wrong. While at Pinkerton (my district), when I mentioned I would also be working with 8th graders at St. Patrick’s Succeed Academy, several students immediately called out that they had friends there. And when, two days later, I walked into an 8th grade classroom St. Pat’s, a student enthusiastically waved his hand, wanting to know if I had worked with his friends over at Pinkerton and when could he see their work.

And once again, another common thread became very visible: when students know their projects will be seen by a real audience, including friends at other schools, they are eager to get to work! Pinkerton’s “found poetry” is now posted on the Stepping Up page of the Digital ID wiki. St. Pat’s “poetry in two voices” is there too, although not quite finished – an online work in progress.

It has been my experience that students thrive from connected learning opportunities. Fortunately, making meaningful connections just gets easier as new – and free – technologies become available.  I think the A Day in the Life of a Connected Educator: Using Social Media in 21st Century Classrooms infographic below, which came through my Twitter feed this morning, sums it up . The infographic is from Powerful Learning Practice, an online community focused on “turning educators into 21st Century educators.”


Infographic from

Thank you, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, for the the great infographic – and a reminder in the next school year to spend more of the school day supporting teachers in creating connected learning environments.


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