Muddling through the blogosphere

January 24, 2019
by blogwalker

#EdTechTeam 2019 Summit Roseville – 3 Impactful Sessions


Time to reflect on my top takeaways from this weekend’s #EdTechSummit in Roseville (California). If you haven’t been to a Google EdTechTeam Summit, this is what they are all about:

The Summits are high intensity two-day events that focus on deploying, integrating, and using G Suite for Education (formerly Google Apps for Education) and other Google Tools to promote student learning in K-12 and higher education. The program features Google Certified Educators, Google Innovators, Google Certified Trainers, practicing administrators, and many local rockstars.”

I missed the Saturday sessions, as I was downtown participating in the #WomensMarchSac, but what a great way to spend my Sunday, starting with Jeff Heil and Ken Shelton‘s session: Equity and Inclusion – You Are the Binder. Before you click on the link to Jeff’s session website, you might want to pour a glass of your favorite beverage because you’ll be heading down a rabbit hole of  thought-provoking resources.

In the past year, I’ve attended a number of inspiring PD sessions within my district on the topic of equity and inclusion, but until Sunday, I hadn’t thought about the importance of “knowing our own identities to determine how who we are effects institutional inequalities that contribute to the predictability of who succeeds and fails on our schools …If you don’t know who you are (your cultural identity), then how can you know who your kids are?” 

Ten minutes into the session, two videos sparked emotions and whole group/table group conversations:

With Jeff guiding the discussion and Ken challenging us to dig deeper into the language of “isms” and racial inequality, we began to explore our own identities through the Personal History of Otherness slideshow. The task was to examine the major categories of isms and then determine whether you are part of the dominant or subordinate group.

Question: How do you tackle and present complex topics in a 90-minute session?

Answer: If you provide your participants with a window into equity issues, as Jeff and Ken did, via a website with powerful resources, such as the Equity and Inclusion – Be The Binder wakelate, participants can and will (I’m sure of it) continue a transformative learning journey beyond the session.

I would love to see the 90-minute session develop into a week-long workshop.

Jeff Heil #EdTechTeam Roseville


I made another good choice for my second session: Projects with a Purpose! Ignite Student Interest with Google’s Applied Digital Skills Curriculum!  This was my first time to hear Natasha Rachell present and also my first time to explore Google’s Applied Digital Skills Curriculum.  The lessons are correlated to ISTE Standards and integrated with Google Classroom, with an emphasis on digital citizenship – three big selling points!

Lessons range from conducting research and writing a report to creating a budget spreadsheet. I started with the If-Then Adventure Story unit, which fits beautifully into both English/Language Arts as wells History/Social Science.  I love the relevance of the topics and the flexibility of each unit, both for subject area and grade level.

I agree with Natasha’s closing statement: “I think we are finally getting to the answer to all teacher’s favorite question: ‘When am I going to use this in real-life?'”


I ended the day with Kimberly Lane Clark’s Blended Learning – Shifting the Paradigm session.  I appreciated Kim’s emphasis on student voice and student choice being central to blended learning and her accompanying resources:


Choice (Thank you, Kasey Bell, for one of many, many resources you freely share!)

Using the video below, Kim guided us through a whole-group discussion on the differences between three terms associated with blended learning: individualization, differentiation, and personalization and then gave us time to turn ‘n talk about how we might tap into some apps and websites to support a blended learning environment.


Spending Sunday at the #EdTechTeam Roseville summit was a rich learning opportunity, starting with Kim Lane’s keynote: Where my Girls At? Shifting the paradigm!  Following on the heals of the Saturday #WomensMarch19, what a timely message:

Computer science is foundational knowledge for all students in the 21st century but a shift in paradigm must happen in order to get ALL students learning about computer science. Even more so there is a huge gap in diversity of women that are learning about computer science. Did you know that Women make up 48% of the workforce, but only 23% hold jobs in STEM! Statistics have shown that there is a lack of women being represented in all STEM fields especially in computer science. In order to change this somber statistic there must be a shift in the mindset of who is represented in STEM fields by involving girls at an early age.”

Kimberly Lane – Sunday keynote – #EdTechSummit

I’m already looking forward to next year’s #EdTechTeam Roseville Summit. Thank you, Marie Criste, for bringing this event to the Sacramento region, and thank you, EdTechTeam speakers for sharing your expertise and inspiring all who attended to continue to “explore and connect.”

June 14, 2015
by blogwalker

On Teaching Empathy & Kindness

I love hearing about positive student-initiated actions happening at elementary schools, especially by 5th graders. Too often, it’s with 5th graders that teachers and parents start to notice harmful patterns such as the “5th grade mean-girl syndrome.” Last week my  co-facilitator for our district’s digital citizenship program sent me the link to the video below. It’s pretty inspiring to watch five 5th grade boys embrace kindness and empathy.

In my own district, I want to give a shout-out to Christine Goodwin’s 4th and 5th graders, who responded to an anti-bullying school assembly by becoming “difference makers.” They quickly moved their commitment to taking a stand on bullying beyond the classroom walls, starting with a pledge and posters in the hallways and multi-purpose room, and onto a VoiceThread, with the possibility of a worldwide audience.

Two years ago, I heard Alan November cite a study that found empathy to be a top 21st century skill. Since then, I’ve been bookmarking resources that provide parents and educators with a structure for teaching and showcasing kindness and empathy across grade levels.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Books that Teach EmpathyCommon Sense Media continues to review and share resources for parents and teachers. This very comprehensive list for ages 3-15 is a great starting point for tapping into the power of story to transform hearts and minds.

Ten Amazing Multicultural Books for Helping Others – I had the privilege of joining Mia Wenjen (PragmaticMom) for a June 4 Twitter chat (#servechat). I think her blog subtitle says it all: “EDUCATION MATTERS. A MASHUP COVERING PARENTING, CHILDREN’S LITERATURE AND EDUCATION.”

Tips for Using Children’s Books to Teach about Kindness, Service, and Compassion – It was thanks to the invitation from Sheila, founder of Pennies for Time and organizer of the June #servechat, that I learned more about her organization and commitment to teaching kindness.

Five-Minute Film Festival: Videos on Kindness, Empathy, and Connection – Another great collection from Edutopia.

Teaching Empathy through Design Thinking – Also from Edutopia, the article walks you through the Design Thinking framework, starting with Empathy.

Three Strategies for Using Empathy as an Antidote to Bullying – ISTE’s Nicole Krueger writes about “expanding the circle of caring,” “engaging students with storytelling,” and “converting bystanders to upstanders.”

Upstanders, Not Bystanders VoiceThread – I’ll tag onto Nicole Krueger’s reference to “upstanders” with an invitation to add to a VoiceThread I curate with my Digital ID partner, Natalie Bernasconi. We welcome stories of those who have crossed the line from bystander to upstander – stories from across generations, geographic locations, historic events, and everyday acts of courage.

If you have resources to add, please leave a comment.






January 2, 2015
by blogwalker

Teaching Kindness

It’s become quite clear that modern education must encompass more than just academics, and that matters of the heart must be taken seriously and nurtured as a matter of priority. Lisa Currie

The Challenge: Can kindness and empathy really be taught?

This morning I re-read Lisa Currie’s October post for Edutopia: Why Teaching Kindness in Schools Is Essential to Reducing Bullying. In the past couple of months, the impact of school-wide bullying in the Sacramento region has been disturbingly newsworthy: the tragic suicide of an 8th grader in one district; a bullying lawsuit in an adjoining district; a number of student suspensions for racist activities at another; and an embarrassing parent confrontation during a regional cyberbullying public event for another.  This recent stream of bad press highlights the need for districts to teach – and expect – kindness and civility (AKA good citizenship) – face-to-face and online.

In my current position as a technology integration specialist for a large public school district, I am a regular visitor in K-12 classrooms. Many school sites display banners and/or posters around the campus reflective of the sites’ character education programs. Many have added cyberbullying to their character ed programs or are offering it as a stand-alone part of their digital citizenship curriculum (all sites are required to have some type of #digcit program in place). I am proud of the way many of our students, particularly at the secondary level, have stepped up to the challenge of confronting bullying. At one site, for instance, through their Unbullyable project, I know students have had a positive impact on their own campus as well as on their feeder elementary and middle schools.


I am grateful I have not yet opened the SacBee to find one my district’s schools featured on the front page for hurtful or hateful acts. And I applaud the efforts of K-12 teachers across the district to support their students in standing up and speaking out against bullying/cyberbullying. Yet a number of times, at several high school campuses, as I make my way through throngs of students exiting at the end of the school day, I hear them yelling out to classmates with rude, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., comments. As tempting as it is to keep walking (it’s just kids being kids, no? … I’m not actually a faculty member here, right?, etc.), when I stop and face the offending student (who probably had not realized there was an adult in their midst), he or she basically always has the same reply: “Oh … Sorry… I was just kidding.” It takes my standing there a while longer before they will generally say once again that they are sorry. It think/hope the difference is that the first “Sorry” is because I heard them; the second “Sorry,” the one that matters, is for having said the unkind slur in the first place.


Kindness can be taught, and it is a defining aspect of civilized human life. It belongs in every home, school, neighborhood, and society.” Maurice Elias, Rutgers University

Stepping Up to the Challenge

But really, can kindness be taught? Can school districts serve as hubs for promoting these essential, timeless life skills? As evidenced in the Unbullyable project, I think so. Part of my job involves checking that all sites are teaching digital citizenship. In the first quarter of the school year, each site submits how it plans to meet e-Rate requirements. So teaching a few lessons during an advisory period, for instance, from Common Sense Media’s wonderful offerings, meets the requirements and often generates thought-provoking, possibly behavior-changing conversations. But some sites go above and beyond the minimum requirements by supporting a variety of student-led initiatives. These sites recognize that, with bullying/cyberbullying, the most impactful campaigns are student-initiated and student-led. At several of these same sites, teachers are weaving discussions of current bullying issues (local, national, or global) into their literature and social studies units. Although I’ve not set up any type of formalized student surveys, I’d be willing to bet that at these sites bullying incidents are becoming less frequent and, hopefully, less devastating.

Tips and Resources for Teaching Kindness

So how do we teach kindness to our students? I believe in the power of stories to transform hearts and actions. Thankfully, there is a wealth of powerful literature, starting with picture books, that teachers can use to ignite ongoing conversations on what kindness looks like. Common Sense Media’s Books that Teach Empathy list is a great K-12 resource and includes some of my favorites, such as R.J. Palacio’s Wonder.

There are also a growing number of websites that offer action-based lessons, such as the National Council of Teachers of English’s  Read, Write, Think site. Their Living the Dream: 100 Acts of Kindness lesson/challenge would be a wonderful literature extension for primary grades to use in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s,legacy and upcoming birthday. For middle and high school, I recommend visiting Facing History and Ourselves and checking out their Bullying and Ostracism Collections for resources to help students “think critically about the dynamics and impact of bullying in schools and communities.”

It is from stories, whether fiction or nonfiction, recent or from the past, and the ensuing conversations, that students often come to understand the role of the bystander in allowing bad things to happen, from bullying on the playground to unthinkable, unspeakable acts of government sanctioned brutality. Students need examples of what it means to cross the line from bystander to upstander. They need opportunities for grade-level and cross-generation conversations on how the courage of a single person to stand up and speak out against bullying and social injustice can change the school climate or even the history of the world. One of my favorite upstander’s tools is the Upstanders, not Bystanders VoiceThread. I co-curate this VoiceThread with my Digital ID partner/National Writing Project colleague Natalie Bernasconi. In the two years since we started the Upstanders, not Bystanders project, we’ve come to value how all voices and stories matter, from our kindergarten contributors to our Rwandan genocide survivor. Teaching kindness and civility needs to start in the primary grades and continue through adulthood.

One tip I have for readers is to document the work of your school sites. In the Sacramento bullying samples I mentioned above, I believe three of the four districts are currently in the process of developing district-wide digital citizenship plans. The fourth district has curriculum and procedures in place, but refers to the program as digital literacy rather than digital citizenship. Although the broader title makes sense, in the likely need to CYA, I think it’s wise to intentionally single out how each site specifically implements the teaching of citizenship/digital citizenship. A simple procedure my district has put in place, in addition to each site submitting an implementation plan at the start of the year, is requiring each principal to sign a statement at the end of the year verifying that digital citizenship has been taught at his/her site.

As my district heads into the third year of requiring school sites to document their digital citizenship plans, one shift I’ve noticed is also one I strongly recommend: Rather than plug in your plan at the close of the school year (post testing), as some of our secondary sites initially did, start the year teaching kindness and civility. Whether it’s through a shared article, a story, an assembly, etc., if the activity is followed with classroom discussion, I am pretty sure you will find, as a number of our teachers have, that student buy-in will be greater as will instances of students actually putting their citizenship skills into practice. Once standards for online/offline behavior have been articulated across the site, students are more likely to speak up for others and to think twice before they hit the submit button.

Additional Resources

In addition to the resources listed above, another outstanding resource is the Cyberbullying Research Center. I love their Cyberbullying Quiz – What the Research Shows, and all the resources linked under their Related Posts section. This exceptional resource, and many more, are listed on the Stepping Up page of the Digital ID project – along with the invitation for your students to submit a PSA in the upcoming 2015 Digital ID PSA Challenge.

Edutopia! Lisa Currie’s article is part of the dynamic Bullying Prevention collection of resources on teaching kindness, empathy, and digital citizenship.

On my New Year’s Resolution List is the intent to update this post during the school year with samples of digital citizenship surveys for students, along with data on the results and impact of teaching kindness and civility. I welcome your input.

Best wishes to all school sites for a year of newsworthy positive accomplishments!



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