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I’m reading a few different books simultaneously and two of them just converged. Both of the books are important on their own and have a lot to teach us. Both books are timely and relevant.

social LEADiaFirst, I’ve been reading Jennifer Casa-Todd’s Social LEADia with a small group of educators in my district. I’ve been inspired by this book for a while. I’m passionate about shifting the conversation around digital citizenship to digital leadership and Casa-Todd’s book outlines the steps for doing just that. So much of what we’ve focused upon in the past has been via scare tactics when teaching or introducing digital citizenship to adults and students. It’s time to focus on the positive ways we can use digital tools and social media to bring about change.

Common Sense Education is doing just that as they release updated digital citizenship lessons, so far for grades 3-8 with more coming.

Social LEADia provides clear examples of students who have raised their voices and brought about change in a variety of ways, whether for their schools, communities, or globally. The book also outlines how schools can start making the shift to share our stories, our passions, and our voices. And most importantly, those of our students.

say somethingThe other book I’ve read recently is Say Something, the newest amazing book by Peter H. Reynolds. This book is the follow-up to The Word Collector, which helped our students see the power of words and vocabulary in a positive light. In Say Something, Reynolds empowers students to use their voices, in a wide variety of ways, to speak up. Say something to help others know how you feel. Say something with your actions. It illustrates how their voices matter. One of my favorite pages says, “Keep saying it… and you may be surprised to find the whole world listening.” The wonderful illustration on that page features many, many birds. Thanks, Peter!

Digital tools provide the mechanism through which we can say something and become digital leaders. Both books strike a chord with me. Both books encourage all of us to use our voices to bring about change. How can we shift the thinking and empower our students? How do we encourage them to speak up and understand that their words and actions matter, and that THEY matter?

It starts with us, the educators. YOU can start by reading these books.

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Did you ever stop to think that teachers don’t have business cards? It came up for me way back, I don’t want to date myself, but before cell phones when we wanted to exchange phone numbers with someone else or just give someone your number. I was a teacher in Boston and didn’t have a business card.

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That was remedied once, when I did an internship  at Tom Snyder Productions (no relation to my former last name) and their in-house illustrator created one single card for me after a conversation about it. That illustrator was no other than Peter H. Reynolds. Here’s that card; I still carry it in my wallet. I shared it with him at a conference a few years back as we reconnected the dots.

I went on to another role in education, one where my husband insists I had a business card and I probably did, but we can’t find any evidence of that. And then, I went back to the classroom. Attending conferences where vendors encourage you to put your business card in a fish bowl to win something gets complicated when you don’t have one. That was before the days of badges with codes that could be scanned. As teachers, we don’t need a card to identify the many hats one wears throughout the day, week, months, and year. It just wouldn’t be possible to describe on a small card.

Well, to make a long story short, I’m making a change. I’m leaving the role I’ve been in for 9 years, that of Digital Learning Leader for the Williston, VT schools and 15 years as a classroom teacher before that, and moving to our district office. My long-winded title will be Director of Digital Learning and Communications.

I’ll miss the day-to-day of school life, interacting directly with students, and the family that I’ve been a part of for 24 years in Williston. But I’m off to exciting, new challenges and new endeavors. I’ll be working with some people I know and some I don’t but who will, hopefully, become my next work family.

And I apparently get business cards. Stay tuned.

I recently attended the ASCD Empower18 conference in Boston. It was an amazing conference on so many levels and I learned so much from so many people. If I had only been present for the 3 keynotes, that would have been worth the trip. Jill Biden, Manny Scott, and Colin Powell! Wow! They were all inspiring, motivating, and shared important and valuable messages for those present and connected from afar.

My Post (1)As educators, we all wear many hats, but I was focused on three of mine as a learner at ASCD. First, I am a Digital Learning Leader for 2 school buildings. I attended phenomenal sessions about leadership, coaching, and digital tools. I had the pleasure of learning from educators like Eric Sheninger, Tom Murray, Shira Liebowitz, Kathy Perret, and Jim Knight. One question that sticks with me is: Am I a leader by title on a business card (which I don’t really have) or a leader by action? I believe it’s the latter. 

The second hat I wore was as a board member of Vermont’s chapter of ASCD. We’re exploring micro-credentials and badging and our role in supporting Vermont’s educators as they develop professionally. I attended sessions on these topics at the conference as well. Brandi Miller is doing amazing things in her district. I hope her work is appreciated.

And finally, the third hat I wore was as an adjunct professor at the University of Vermont. I teach an online summer course in the EdTech sequence that focuses on the relationship between assessment and technology. I was honored to meet Starr Sackstein in person after having used her book, Hacking Asssessment, with this class for the past few summers. Her session about feedback was indicative of the work she’s done; she truly walks the talk.

I valued my time in Boston attending the Empower18 conference. I connected with other educators, grew my PLN, and as always, gained perspective about my schools and our district’s work. We’re doing truly great things in our schools and district. My learning will be shared with colleagues and will help shape my thinking and my work. Thank you ASCD for making this possible.

 

Just Right Sites

I just worked with a class of first and second graders and am so impressed with them on so many levels! This was the second in a series of four visits to the class to focus on digital citizenship topics.

We used elements of two lessons from Common Sense Education. First, we talked about what a “just right” book is. The students clearly have had this discussion with their teachers. “It’s not too hard and not too easy.” “It is like riding a bike on flat ground with a few bumps, but not a steep hill to go up or down.” I asked what they thought a “just right” site or app would look like. Again, great answers. “It needs to be appropriate for kids our age” was one.

8585281546Then we used the stoplight activity from the Staying Safe Online lesson. I read some statements and they told me whether those were not okay for kids their age, be cautious, or okay. They followed up on their own, coloring in a stoplight either red, yellow, or green next to different statements about websites. They helped each other read the statements.

The teacher had added me as a co-teacher in her Google Classroom. Yes, Google Classroom with first and second graders. I created a doc with some of the sites listed in the Sites I Like lesson and used many of the guiding questions in the lesson as well. Using Classroom was a simple way to get that doc to each of them as a resource. They picked one of the sites on the list to evaluate and used the checklist from the lesson to circle a happy or sad face next to each statement. For the most part, they were able to stay focused on evaluating the websites rather than losing themselves in the content offered. We did provide extra time for a little fun play.

They loved today’s activities. I was impressed by their fluency with basic skills on Chromebooks: logging in, accessing their Google Classroom class, clicking on my doc’s link, viewing websites through an evaluative lens, and then properly closing out and shutting down.

 

 

These combined lessons focused on internet safety and information literacy. It is important to lay the foundation on these topics with younger students too. I’m fortunate to work with educators who value digital citizenship at all grade levels.

 

Back to the WHY

Once again, I’ve slipped and have stopped blogging for a while. Fear not, there’s a lot spinning in my head for various reasons and I hope to blog more often to get it out of my head and perhaps get some input from my PLN.

Last year we did some great work at a Northwest regional meeting for Vita-Learn, our state’s ISTE affiliate. We focused on the WHY of EdTech and generated some great ideas to help guide our work. We used ideas from Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about starting with the WHY. I recently attended Vita-Learn’s fall conference, VermontFest and was again reminded of our WHY. Many presenters alluded to it during their sessions.

At the same time, we are making some changes in my school and our district. Our supervisory union became a consolidated district this summer and along with that comes a consolidated technology budget. That filters down to the school level as we try to get a better handle on many aspects, including purchases for online subscriptions.

In a document that will be shared with the School Board this week, I saw this quote about technology in our schools:

“Students create, share, connect and learn using digital tools, which provide opportunities that did not exist before, expanding the school beyond its physical walls.”

That matches my WHY; I believe that we have the technology in our schools to enhance and support learning by creating, collaborating, thinking critically and solving problems, and communicating, among many other things. My thinking aligns with the newly updated ISTE standards for Students and for Educators.

 

WHY-

But at the same time, I’m finding that we’re paying for more and more online subscriptions for services and sites that seem like online workbooks. I realize that some of our students need additional supports for their educational programs, and am pondering many questions:

  • How many of these tools do we need?
  • How many math and literacy drill & skill sites?
  • How many of them duplicate our efforts?
  • What’s the decision-making process look like? Who is making the decisions?
  • What systems are in place? How can we improve these systems?
  • How do we ensure that our decisions match our WHY?

I am in the process of inventorying our online subscriptions with this in mind, as well as other topics that came up at VermontFest, including student data privacy, adherence to COPPA, and cost. But the focus on the educational value and WHY comes first.

I welcome thoughts about how others are organizing their online subscriptions and keeping things focused on their WHY.

 

If you’re a Twitter follower, you know doubt have noticed an increase in tweets from me in the last few days. I’m at ISTE17 in San Antonio and have been tweeting a lot more.

Here are 3 of the takeaways for me from sessions I’ve attended, keynotes, poster sessions, and interactions with my PLN. The topics below definitely overlap.

Idea Board

Image thanks to Ken Shelton from the Storytelling, Creativity, and Design – Effective Presentation Design session. 

Connect

One thing I love about ISTE is the ease with which I can re-connect the dots with members of my PLN and expand my PLN to include new connections. I got to see my pal Kay (@KayBisaillon) in person. We only see one another at this conference, but we’re connected to one another all other days of the year via Twitter. I re-connected with the amazing folks at CommonSense. I checked in with my ISTE PLNs, including the Digital Citizenship PLN and the EdTech Coaches PLN. I missed seeing friends from Fablevision this year, namely Terry Shay, and Peter and Paul Reynolds.

Last night I pushed myself out of my comfort zone (I am more introverted than most people would think) and attended a vendor social event on my own. I randomly sat down at a table with other educators and ended up having dinner with them. So now I have added @EduTechSmith and @cindybrock to my PLN. Thanks for including me!

My PLN continues to grow and the benefits for me as a learner and a leader are numerous. I’m so thankful that I have so many people and places to turn to to share and get ideas and support. I hope I return the favor in kind.

Share

I attended the Global Education Day session before the conference started on Sunday. That gave me the opportunity to connect with the folks at Participate. I’ve used Participate to gather and curate resources. It’s one of the only tools I’ve found where you can do that collaboratively. But during this session and beyond in other conversations (thanks Brad!), I also learned about the many other features Participate offers, like courses, badges, and chats. I’ll be pursuing more with my district and others back in Vermont.

I have created a Participate collection with many of the resources I’ve gathered while here at ISTE17. It’s not complete as there are more resources in my Drive, on my phone, and I’ll need some time to go through and organize things. But it’s a start.

We all have to share, whether it’s resources, ideas, or our stories. It’s the world we live in today and we need to embrace that.

Tell Your Story

Thanks to the work that Michael Berry (@MichaelBerryEDU) is doing in Vermont, there are many schools and districts effectively telling their stories. One of the administrators with whom I work, Greg Marino (@VTPrincipal) and I have read The Power of Branding and The Innovator’s Mindset, in the past year, both of which I highly recommend. We’ve worked hard to tell our school’s story to all aspects of our community. More educators in our schools tweeted their portion of our story using our hashtag #wsdvt. At the end of each week, we shared a Storify with that week’s social media shares. We got very positive feedback. People liked knowing what was happening in our own schools; we have a lot to celebrate.

Yesterday’s keynote, Jennie Magiera (@MsMagiera) was inspiring on another level. Not only did she encourage us to tell our stories, but she also wants us to share the ‘untold stories’. It important to share the journey, not just the glossy end-product. Share the messy stuff, the challenges, and the process.

engagement

I just attended a session with Steve Anderson (@web20classroom) and Shaelynn Farnsworth (@shfarnsworth) and have shared their presentation in my Participate collection. They solidified the value and importance of telling our stories and encourage us to use the social media tools that parents, students, and community members are using most – for now, Instagram, Snapchat, and livestreaming with Periscope or Facebook Live. Whatever the tool, there’s so much to be gained by engaging with others.

Those threads, sharing, connecting, and telling our story helped weave the story of ISTE together for me this year. What’s your #ISTEStory?

 

 

Words Are Powerful

I saw this recent post via George Couros about how technology can deepen relationships. That goes against the grain of what some people may think. That post reminded me of an activity I’ve done recently with some students around kindness and the strength of our words.

In my work with third and fourth graders this year, we’ve been focusing on the positive. We viewed two videos from Common Sense Education, The Power of Words, and Mindful Messaging. After watching them, we talk about some of the common themes. One thing that always comes up is the fact that when sending digital messages, you can’t see the person’s face or hear their tone of voice.

In small groups or pairs in the room we practice saying the same thing a few times, but changing up the facial expressions and tone of voice. Try it with “Are you coming to my birthday party?” or “I didn’t know that about you.” It’s a lot of fun!

After that, we create pretend text conversations. The students use Google Drawings to create a conversation with someone they really know and that knows them back. As much as they’d like to chat with LeBron James or Taylor Swift, it’s more powerful if it’s someone they interact with on a regular basis.

The students take on both roles in the pretend conversation; themselves and the person they’re chatting with. We also talk about trying hard to make sure someone receiving your text can’t misread what you intended to say. Therefore, for this exercise, we don’t use all caps, text abbreviations, or emojis.

Here are some examples.

The Power of Words -1


 

The Power of Words - 2