Creating their future

                                      flickr photosharedWiertz Sébastienunder aCreative Commons(BY-NC)license

If we want our students to become true contributors and innovators in this Web 2.0 world then we need to give them the skills and guidelines to be able to do this safely and confidently. When looking up synonyms for citizenship, words like autonomy, liberation, rights and duties are listed . If we teach digital citizenship we are giving them creative independence and autonomy to use and contribute to the online world in a way that I find inspiring and hopeful.  Using technology with citizenship in mind empowers our students to influence the future and allows them to be heard as young leaders and influencers. Not to help them see these opportunities would seem like we are limiting their possibilities. Teaching digital citizenship is no longer just an ‘elective’.

Citizenship is about living in the world together, digital citizenship is about living in our online world  together. Whilst there are so many connections between those all important social, emotional and ethical skills and behaviours we encourage in our students everyday , students should be  explicitly taught what it means to be a digital citizen . In the same article Mary Beth Hertz writes it is imperative that they know and understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to content creation and consumption, as well as how they conduct themselves socially online.  We need to give them a ‘tool kit’ to be able to make choices about what kind of a citizen they are and how to get the most out of  the online community. Mike Ribble refers to our responsibility to set the stage for how we work with each other in a global, digital, society.

As teachers, one of the most powerful influences to help students is to model practices ourselves. Whilst I strive to model all those things that an empathetic, kind, positive, creative, curious,  and responsible person contributes to a community I asked myself this week whether I had the ‘tool kit’ to model specific aspects of digital citizenship. Cue Coetail Course 2. My digital citizenship up until now has been about exercising what I thought was informed good practice. I know now that my information and approach had been  limited. I needed to have the skills but also a clear understanding of how  to help my students get the most out of their digital lives in order to model it myself. More importantly, issues raised in Course 2 have helped me to  inform others about digital citizenship in our everyday use of technology. I am more confident to have these important discussions with parents and colleagues who worry about privacy, safety, lack of control, influence of outsiders and about bullies and being a bully .

Last week , Joel Bevans, my Grade 1 colleague Tanya Irene , our inspiring IT facilitator, and I ran a Parent Workshop  to inform, raise questions, and share ideas about student online activities and digital citizenship.



Important questions and concerns were raised and I noticed that many parents were discussing digital footprints for the first time and had not considered their own.  Most of the parents of my students had not had  discussions themselves at school around digital citizenship and yet many faced these discussions or situations daily with their own children’s use of technology. The first ISTE standards referred to   “Social, Ethical, Legal, and Human issues,”   and it wasn’t until 2008 that the revised version referred to elements of digital citizenship . Even more reason why teachers and parents should have these discussions  to avoid a disconnect between home and school and to help parents give their children guidance. The parents were concerned about privacy and sharing, but could see how being informed and practising digital citzenship from an early age would help their children to take advantage of the opportunities and possibilities in their learning by making global connections. Ultimately the pros far outweigh the cons.

Kayla Delzer, a 2nd Grade teacher and technology consultant in North America writes:

While jumping into technology or social media can be scary at first, the benefits of putting kids in authentic environments to hone their digital citizenship skills far outweigh those fears. Sometimes, the comfort level of teachers is less important than doing what’s right for students as we prepare them for the future that waits for them when they leave school. We as teachers cannot play into those fears, or be the four walls that hold our students back.

The question becomes how I encourage digital citizenship in the classroom. Like last week’s post on copyright, my students are really good at making connections. They can tell me what we need to build a community and can make that connection to a virtual community. Just as classroom citizenship becomes an integral part of our day, so  digital citizenship becomes an integral part of using technology. With both we revisit when different situations arise, and  have regular discussions around living in and building a community . Revisits become part of classroom life . When building skills, knowledge and understanding with our students in any area of the curriculum we often review, remind, reflect and remix the problem to see if they can apply their understanding. Moreover, in the digital world nothing will stay the same for long and so new skills may need to be explicitly taught , and new  guidelines developed.

One of my students this week made me reflect on what digital citizenship is. We were building on previous activities about our digital footprints. I asked the students how they think their footprints, ‘their impressions of themselves’ connect to other classmates and people.  I gave them time to look at each others’ ‘footprints’ and talk. We got into a circle and made connections to each other using yarn. One student said whilst holding yarn across the circle to another student,








“I am connected to Ben because we are both proactive.”

They also commented on the ‘web ‘ that we were making. I love how they drive their own learning.

“It’s like the world web, you know that www we do when we use the internet.”



I was  excited that he had referred to the Learner Profile to make his connection and his comment then prompted a discussion about whether we can apply the Learner Profile to being a good digital citizenship. When online, am I a..? I am ..?

  • Communicator
  • Proactive
  • Creative and Innovative
  • Responsible
  • Contributor

A few days later, I showed them the Commonsense media video, Super Digital Citizen.





I asked the students if they had any superpowers. They had plenty. Many of them we agreed could help us be good digital citizens.

“My superpower is being kind.”

“My superpower is helping.”

“My super power is using the iPad”

“My superpower is building stuff.”

“My superpower is being creative.”

“My superpower is speaking languages.”

“My superpower is minecraft”

“My superpower is working stuff out.”

At the end of the day, if  we help our students to understand what digital citizenship is all about then we hope that they will take the advice to trust their   powerful mind and giant heart above any machine and make the right choices.

We owe it to our students to give them the tools to create positive digital footprints and to help them on their way to becoming those contributors, creators and innovators that they can be.







Whose idea is it anyway?

That’s an interesting question and does it really matter?

                           flickr photo shared by Pimthida under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

We have all read headlines about copyright lawsuits and allegations of plagiarism. The ongoing Nike lawsuit about their infamous logo or the Blurred Lines case. These cases make the headlines because of their celebrity status. They may start off as protecting the creativity of the artist but they often end up being about money which at the end of the day detracts from the creativity itself. But what about all those artists who do not make the headines, is it important to protect their creativity?

flickr photo shared by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Copyright, plagiarism and fair use are important issues and some aspects are becoming more complicated and less clear with digital technology. In an Education World article Applying Fair Use to New Technologies Linda Starr writes about the difficulties even the experts have in reaching agreements about what this actually means in reality. As with issues around online privacy, it is about informing ourselves as accurately as we can. Once we have that information and we understand those guidelines, it is about choices and responsibility. Choices for the creator to share and a moral as well as legal choice for the user to adhere to copyright, to cite sources correctly and to attribute and acknowledge the creator’s thinking and skills. Our responsibility as educators is then to help our students do the same.

In education I think the emphasis is less about ownership and more about acknowledgement and attribution. In the end it’s about digital citizenship and modelling good practice to the students. It’s about teaching our students about the context, etiquette and power of sharing in order for them to be responsible creators themselves . I have failed to attribute in the past and what I was really doing in my ignorance was failing to acknowledge the effort, brilliance and achievement of that other person.

During last week’s research I read articles about the power of hyperlinking . Alan Levine created the idea of  linktribution . He writes that when we make links we are giving credit to other authors and acknowledging our appreciation of their work. Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano emphasises the importance of teaching hyperlinked writing and reading  to students and talks about the disservice we do to students if we don’t teach them about copyright from an early age.

Attributing people’s ideas and creativity comes naturally to my grade 1 students. They constantly refer to their favourite authors or name the illustrator of their favourite books. They know about respecting people’s property, about ownership. They strive to make good choices everyday. How many times do I ask all my students, “ Does anyone know who this belongs to? ” They know, even if it’s not the actual owner, because they appreciate and recognise everyone’s  style, skills  and contribution to classroom life. In this context, they are not worried about copyright or ownership, but every day they recognise the power of sharing and the importance of attribution in their own way.

An example from my class that happened this week.  As a provocation to our new unit on Structures and Materials , every Grade 1 teacher cleared their classroom and gave the students the following task.

In groups, build a bridge more than a metre long that a car can travel across.

Making Bridges
Making Bridges


They were free to use anything they liked and to get themselves into groups. The conversation and activity in the classroom was fascinating, but one thing I kept hearing again and again was ,



“ That’s a great idea,  let’s try it.”

” That’s so cool  “.

“Awesome, you’re so good at that.”

“Can you show me how to do that?”

They understand all about attribution and how it helps their learning.


Here are some of their reflections:

“ We had difficulties with standing it up but then Andrew figured out that we could put a piece of cardboard under it .”

“ We liked Lotte’s idea of making x’s along the side, so we used that and it worked.”

“ We worked together good because we shared ideas.”

“ Craig and Mark didn’t help so Ian and I did all the work.”

So how do I start to teach my students about copyright?  They already demonstrate that they have an understanding of appreciating others’ work, creativity and ideas. Now I need to help them to apply these understandings in a more formal way. I touch on this when students are researching for information. I ask them to cite books or  library sites where they found information and we talk about ‘ not copying from the book’ but rather  making connections and getting ideas. Recently  I have been helping them to write a blog comment. I ask them to make a connection to the post , ask a question and to say what they found out or like about the post, thereby showing appreciation to the post’s creator.

The most powerful message for me this week and something I need to fix is the sourcing and citing of images that my students do. Coetail has made this become part of my practice in my own work, so now I need to help the students be able to do this themselves. Working with Creative Commons  media files and creating our own media library with students also as contributors  is a good place to start.




Sharing and access to ideas still remains for me the most important and powerful part of our online world. So, just as we fear data being stolen in the discussions around online privacy,  do we  have the same fears about sharing our creativity online for fear of using someone else’s idea?  Are the copyright law makers , as Larry Lessig suggests,  “taking the stance that remix culture is  a copyright issue ” and that  we are encouraging the young creators of this new media literacy to “operate outside the law.”  Worse still, are we stifling creativity?

flickr photo shared by evmaiden under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

So I feel I have to write about remix and mashup  in this post because it’s often at the centre of copyright . More importantly this week, I have been caught up and inspired by the creativity and sheer genius in the creative thinking around remix and mashup.  Whilst messing around and following hyperlinks, I have marvelled at the creativity of  teachers who are remixing to deliver content.  Inspiring and creative teachers are remixing to develop language learning and teachers like Ms.Johnson are creating remix projects in her Art room and all are sharing.

I was interested to read about the historical roots, issues about ownership and originality, and the implications for assessment that Brian Lamb  refers to about the remix and mashup culture. In his article he makes reference to the novelist Jonathan Lethen’s thoughts about ‘ inspirations for jazz and blues music .’

“Lethen likens it to an ‘open source culture’ ”

I really like this idea and as  I write this paragraph I know where this is leading me . In my post I use words like inspiring, creative and thought provoking. What better attribute can I pay to the people that either had those brilliant ideas or realised them into being ? My own learning has come from reading about and discovering the inspiration of others.

I watched Kirby Ferguson’s series on Everything is a remix and I enjoyed reminiscing and reflecting on the ideas that the videos provoked. All week I have been contempleting remix and making connections to the Arts.

Jasper Johns when talking about the creative process said:

“It’s simple, you just take something and do something to it, and then do something else to it. Keep doing this, and pretty soon you’ve got something.”

Ben Murray  uses the quote attributed to Pablo Picasso and then later used by Steve Jobs

“good artists copy, great artists steal ”  as a way to describe what is “at the core of much of the aesthetic endeavours that engage modern technology. ”   He writes about “the importance of collaboration in creativity ” and how technology has “bolstered this in new ways”.

In our learning,  consuming of information and thinking we connect to something we know which extends our thinking and is often the inspiration to create something new. We need to attribute, to cite our sources and formally recognise the originality of others. We need to exercise good digital citizenship and  as educators model this and help our students do the same. Amy Erin Borovoy outlines our responsibility so clearly, Five-Minute Film Festival: Copyright and Fair Use for Educators.

In all of this however, I have at times been struck by the fact that the purpose of copyright is to protect the creator and yet, in all of  it’s complexities, it seems these complications can sometimes stifle further creativity emerging from past works for fear of copyright infringement.

My final thought to all those creators out there which includes my own students, please continue to share your creativity through the power of the internet. I promise I will acknowledge your work and attribute as precisely as I can.




The Secret Life of the Internet


Keep out

Is this week about online privacy  or more about protecting certain data about ourselves that we don’t want shared with people or organisations we don’t know? Because sharing and making my thoughts public, the very opposite of private, is the reason I am writing this blog in the first place. When I write my blog, I think about my audience. Before I publish, I pause to think about what I am about to share. The reason I share is to push my own learning by connecting to others.

My reflections have swung from scary notions of vast mountains of stolen personal data ,  exploitation and trade offs and government surveillance to celebrating the powerful gains of  sharing data, ideas and connecting to others globally. My case rests firmly with it’s better to share, but we need to be clear about the why and  think before we share.

The message is clear for me. Online privacy is important, it is about being informed so that we can make choices about what we share, who we share it with and for what purposes.  It is about knowing how to protect ourselves against adversity.This is nothing new, just as survival is a basic human instinct, so is protecting ourselves against pain, hurt, danger, or emotional upset. But of course, in reality, it isn’t always possible to protect ourselves completely, online or offline, sometimes bad things happen. But we can be informed about how we can best protect our online privacy. It’s about taking control and getting the most out of  our connected world . As a teacher, it is my responsibility to develop guidelines with my students and parents on sharing and privacy. We blog, we share photos with parents on Google, my students need to know what’s acceptable to share and with whom.  Last week I started activities with my Grade 1 class on digital footprints. We took a walk around the school and recorded where we left footprints and what they said about us. Next week we will be talking about what we want to share with others and how connecting extends our thinking and learning. From the blogging they have been doing this week  my students already know this, but the discussions will lead into who we share with and what should be shared.


A footprint of a Grade 1 student
A footprint of a Grade 1 student
Our walk around the school leaving our footprints
Our walk around the school leaving  our footprints
Where do we leave our footprints?
Where do we leave our footprints?


This week was also about informing myself about privacy issues so I started finding out more about  privacy settings on Facebook and other networked public sites . I found myself reading about  an investigation into Google’s handling of personal information,  investigations into Facebook’s data protection policies which according to  Belgium’s data protection authority violates Europoean consumer protection law. I read headlines entitled  Online Privacy Concerns will Hit Tipping Point-2016-Report Says  I was beginning to panic and then the penny dropped,  is this the sign of a generational-gap alarmism ? Memories of reading about being a  digital immigrant  came to mind. How then do teenagers manage their privacy on facebook and other networked publics? Danah Boyd talks about how face to face social interactions are “private by default, public by effort”  but online, they are “public by default, private by effort.” She talks about how teenagers develop strategies to manage their privacy. One of the students she interviewed as part of her research told her:

“Facebook is about letting people choose how they want to define privacy.” Perhaps for teenagers using social media, there is safety in numbers. They create a type of social norm that becomes their safety net, the code of what’s appropriate to share and what’s not, creating their own privacy rules.

Whilst researching I was struggling to find a clear picture from the articles I had read about what and how information is being shared  and whether I actually had the power to assert changes . So I watched Common Craft videos,I  learned about firewalls, cookies, Tor, secure sites, web site’s privacy policies, and I learned about my options to protect my privacy online .

The concept of universal individual privacy is a “modern construct that up until recently has been mainly associated with Western Cultures”.  In some cultures, the word privacy does not exist , is untranslatable or is made up of a combination of meanings. In Russian, for example it combines the meaning of уединение—solitude, секретность—secrecy, and частная жизнь—private life. But the whole point of the internet is to  share, to connect and not to have solitude, secrecy or to live privately. So I suppose we could say that the reality of online privacy or lack of it  is a modern phenomena, created by us, the users. And the very reason I keep going back to the internet, use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google , Flickr, the World Wide Web is because I want to have that choice to connect to others and share and learn more. Afterall, our connected online activities create the very content that we rely on to inform us, empower us to change things, and move forward.

Whilst writing this blog it has reminded me of how the  internet has been paramount in saving lives and helping others by sharing information. I remember being struck by the impact of Facebook and Twitter in the  help and support  during and after the Japanese Tsunami in 2011. Sharing of  huge datasets on the medical histories of millions of people saves lives .  Networking medicine is helping to speed up reseach in the medical world to help save lives. Big data collection is also being used to help communities deal with pressing social issues.

And when all is said and done, when all my firewalls, passwords, privacy settings are in place, for me it’s about trust. In this digital age trust will become the new currency .

Way back in 2009, the ICT facilitator, Tanya Irene and I created a Picture Dictionary using Wikispaces to help our EAL students  It has  translations in all the represented languages spoken at the school. We enrolled the help of parents and upper school students to help us. I remember being nervous at the thought of opening this up , allowing upper school students to upload photos and translations. I had visions of inappropriate  images being posted and an innocent Lower School student having access to this. Calmly and oh so wisely,Tanya  assured me that the Upper School students would create their own sense of boundaries and rules exactly because they had ownership of it. She was so right. It was about trust.The benefits of sharing this resource with the students and parents at our school far outweighed the risk of an inappropriate post.

What we share and how we share it is the key to all of this. I can’t imagine a world without sharing.

Photo Credit: theloushe via Compfight

Have I put my foot in it? Lessons in Life.

In a good way or bad way? This week’s research and assignment has had me fascinated, playing the detective to my own digital footprint and learning about my digital shadow, which worryingly is becoming larger than my actual footprint. My “digital shadow.” it seems is more visual but less controllable than my footprint and is built from my passive online activities. So Lesson 1, my passive online presence is overshadowing my actual footprint. Not good.

Photo Credit: <a href=
Auntie P via Compfight cc” class /> Shadows

Lesson 2, reading through articles about embarrassing  ourselves online, how colleges are tracking prospective students and How Recruiters use Social Networks to Screen Candidates, as well as a plea from Eric Schmidt , Google’s CEO for a“ delete ” button for the web and learning about the internet archive I had thought that for once my age could be a bonus in this connected world, my footprints are squeaky clean.  My footprints, however,  are mainly paper trails, and there’s the rub. When trying to track down a transcript of my degree, I am stuck in some dusty archive and am apparantly difficult to trace. This is disconcerting, so I googled myself, also disconcerting since I didn’t amount to much. If you look at my paper trail then absoloutely I would hire me, but if you look at my online identity I probably wouldn’t even get on a digital short list.

So, Lesson 3 Do Not Go Gently into the Digital Night. In his article, Establish and Maintain Your Online Identity Jason Fitzpatrick talks about the annoying element of over promotion but more importantly he talks about “the biggest sin, the cardinal sin, of identity management is silence” . He makes the point that not being invested in your digital footprints may lead to wrong assumptions about lack of online activity, or that a heavy presence followed by a silent period may also be delivering the wrong kind of message.

Added to which when I googled myself I discovered another Suzy Ramsden whom I definitely would not employ. Also not good. I remembered the Coetail advice in the Orientation Course, add a photo so that fellow coetailers can identify you, find you quicker and make a connection. So true. I went on to read William M Ferriter’s article Digitally Speaking / Positive Digital Footprints in which he quotes technology expert Will Richardson talking about his fear that his daughter’s creativity, collaborative skills, and change-the-world work will not be acknowledged or even worse that she won’t be able to be found at all on the web.

Lesson 4 is that it is my responsibility to fix this, to control my identity and online profile to something positive and interesting, not apologetic or dull. Something I have been neglecting. My search led me to think- I am so much more than these few lines- be proactive and change this. So I started with an About me page on my Coetail blog and am about to update my Linkedin information. How can I have possibly let something so important as my professional profile and how individuals perceive me as an educator, slip into insignificance or even misinformation? Time to start building and controlling my digital legacy.

So Lesson 5  is the affirmation that it is absoloutely crucial that we talk to our students about their digital footprint from an early age. It is in fact about teaching students to take control of their own identity. If guided correctly, students of today have the potential to start building their positive digital footprints which will directly effect their futures even before they are possible aware. And because we live in a connected world, these footprints will hopefully positively effect the futures of others and make a difference.With guidance, we can help them to  avoid the pitfalls of technology

There are so many articles about the importance of positive digital footprints on future employment or study opportunities as well as advice for parents, and guidelines for individuals on how to control and clean up one’s digital footprint. It is clear to me, therefore,  that I would be doing my students a disservice by not guiding them through or showing them how to build  and maintain their positive online footprints  or portfolios.

So my first responsibility as an educator and parent is to ensure that my students and my own kids have some understanding of what their digital footprint is and how their online activities are creating their “footsteps” . I think this video by Joaquin E Jutts has a clear message.



They need guidance to understand the connection between behaving responsibly and respectfully as a citizen both online and offline and how citizenship is all part of the footprint. They need help to explore the idea that their actions will give an impression, paint a picture of who they are and how they appear to others.  My role is to help them to make this connection and to apply it to their online activities to help build positive footprints.

In considering my responsibility to teach my Grade 1 students about their digital footprint, I read Craig Polzen’s blog, Digital Tattooing and liked his reference to the Digital Tattoo Project and the idea of permanence. Lisa Nielson talks about starting points for students in managing their digital footprints, Who are you? What do you stand for? What are your passions and beliefs?   She also talks about the permanence of our footprints and how “this representation will stick with us potentially forever.” I needed to make a connection to the age of my students. We have just completed a unit called “Communication builds a Community” in which the students explored positive and negative communication, making the same connections to citizenship. A perfect entry point to begin my discussions with my Grade 1 students about how we behave in an online community. Also timely, since we are about to launch our  Making Connections unit from Course 1 and this will open up their digital conversations beyond home and school.

Drpixel Photographer Illustrator / Vector Artist
Footsteps silhouette made from electronic waste

At 6 and 7, students often need to make a physical or visual connection to abstract concepts and they often make very honest observations and evaluations. My plan is to make a connection to their actual physical footprints and  to take them on a walk around the school, asking them to remember what footprints or impressions they think they have left behind that day. In other words ‘ to paint a picture’ of who they are.  My question to the students would be:

What do you think your footprints that you have made at school say about you?

What other footprints, outside school, do you want to add? 

Is this how you want others to  see you or know about you? 

To help the students to make the connection with their digital footprint we can look at their online activity on the Class Blog and include parents in a weekend project to track their online activity over 2 days, asking the same question:What do your digital footprints say about you?  After introducing the students and parents to the idea of their digital footprints we can continue to use the class blog and other web sites they visit to track and evaluate their footprints. Creating positive digital footprints is also about digital citizenship. I see citizenship as an integral and daily part of what is already happening in my classroom, digital or otherwise.

This week is half term and I decided to check out my students’ footprints on our class blog. I am happy to be helping them create digital footprints that  represents a picture of someone they are proud to be.

krisztiancandice building Building my garden.

Blog comments

Final lesson: Fix my own footprints- here’s a start About Me

Blogging and Storytelling. Course 1 Final Project


Reflections on my learning so far.

I have learned :

  • That connecting through blogs builds learning and understanding
  • That connections need to be encouraged and maintained in order for the  learning to continue to develop
  • That blogging can help me to reflect ,crystalise my thinking and push it further
  • That blogging shows me different  perspectives
  • That these are all  really good reasons why I should extend and open up  opportunities for my students through our class blog and joining a global project
  • Time and reflection are important for true and deeper learning to take place.

When skillfully planned and modelled, blogging can allow my students to cover just about every facet of the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy.


Kathy Schrock

In the classroom I am continually observing and assessing my pupils’ ability to be true collaborative learners. This course has encouraged me to be a collaborative learner on a global scale in an authentic and purposeful way. Through reading course material,  coetail blogs and building  conversations, it has pushed my thinking and understanding of what the 21st century curriculum should really look like.If curriculum is a tour through what is known, how is knowledge ever advanced? Grant Wiggins.

Significantly, starting the Coetail course has strengthened my empathy for my students’ in their learning.  I have felt challenged by my limited technical skills, but have seen the true value of problem solving. I have discovered that it’s the journey through the learning, not the end result where the true understanding and satisfaction takes place and  that learning often doesn’t have an end result, it’s just another step towards different learning. Coetail has reinforced the power of sharing in learning. The learning that has happened for me from the course is now being shared amongst my colleagues at school.

One of the most significant and challenging surprises for me is that I am learning to be a writer and it’s tough. I am learning to write for a specific audience, use appropriate voice, draw an audience in so that they want to read on. I ask all of these things of my students on a weekly or even daily basis. It’s not easy but practicing writing skills through blogging is relevant, quicker , purposeful and collaborative.

Finally, I think I am learning to understand how my students can and should be learning in the 21st Century. Hollis Scott, a fifth grade teacher at Montair Elementary School in Danville, California talked about a new story for my own practice. I think this is exactly where I am also.

So I need to create the same kind of authentic and purposeful learning for my students.

My final project therefore is about blogging and story telling.

This is a collaborative project designed with my Grade 1 colleague and fellow coetailer Joel Bevans for our Grade 1 students.

Last year

I used the class blog :

  • to make connections between home and school
  • to extend the learning beyond the classroom walls
  • to showcase learning
  • to model digital citizenship

This year

  •  I want to transition from using the blog to show how and what we learn to pushing it to becoming the learning forum,  the learning itself
  •  I want to pre-teach skills that my students will need to open the door for them to join Out of Eden Learn
  • I want to create authentic and meaningful connections for the students
  • I want to encourage global collaborations for myself and my students


The thinking for the unit design came from all of the above, inspired by Project ZeroOut of Eden Learn and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk entitled The Danger of a Single Story.




I would like to my students to build understanding and perspective on a much more global level .There is always more than one story to tell.


What makes us laugh?

Laughing at my mistakes.

"Happy Emotions Photography."
“Happy Emotions Photography.”
“Laughter by JAMART Photography.” Fine Art America.

 Two things happened this week. I was bogged down by the responsibility of providing authentic and meaningful learning oppportunities for my students and I saw the need for my class to mess around with technology and for more laughter than usual in our classroom.  Referring  to the Project Zero conference once again, one of the speakers Daniel Wilson, quoted a school who “celebrated their successes and laughed at their mistakes” . I’m learning to laugh at my mistakes and it feels good.


laughing kids
“Laughing Kids | ActionAid.” Laughing Kids | ActionAid.

So I disrupted what we were all doing and injected a huge amount of laughter into the classroom with games, funny moments,  visuals and Skype. As a result, we may be about to conduct our own inquiry into  What makes us laugh? When the students were messing around, Skyping their friends in other classes in the same Grade, they connected through their laughter. They told me they felt   “happy, joined up , the same ” when they laughed. So then we went wondering… we wonder if it’s the same for all people in the world?  Our action, or next step from our wonders may be that we  start small. We pose the question on my class blog, tweet the parents, students and teachers and see what we find. Who knows , we may go global.


Messing around with Skype.

What’s my learning intention? For the students to truly understand and experience how they can drive their own inquiry. What are my next steps?  To think carefully about a framework for this inquiry and to break down the inquiry into manageable steps.  I will share if we go ahead with this. But before I go ahead  I need to think carefully how this really promotes student learning or it’s just a fun add-on.

The second thing that happened was my thinking about the Coetail course. When I began the course I started making connections, joining everything, saving virtually everything on Pocket or adding more feeds . I joined Mystery Skype, got in touch with a friend and ex-colleague who is now in New York, trying to start an online book club with our students. I started sending tweets, did I really know why or was it because everyone else in my team was dong this? It was overwhelming and of course, I have failed in most of my projects because it was too much, too soon, and lacked time to think, careful planning and connection to the students’ learning.

So have I learned anything so far?

I must have learned something this week because  Learning is a consequence of thinking and I have not stopped reading, thinking, observing and thinking again. The basis of my thinking has what?  What difference will this global connection make for my students in their learning, thinking and future actions? Andrew Marcinek in his article Help Students Use Social Media to Empower, Not Just Connect talks about  “simply allowing students to connect is only the beginning” he stresses the importance of promoting critical thinking and questioning.

Reflecting on some of the reading we have been doing over the last few weeks about the changing roles of educators  and the learning landscape, I’m beginning to truly see how we as educators become that connection for our students, the coach, the facilitator,  to a wider world of authentic and meaningful learning experiences for our 21st century learners. It’s a bit obvious really, but I  need and like to take a slow walk through my learning.  Without our thinking and planning about the why , these connections could be closed, one stop, evaporate  into a list of ” covered that” job done, without provoking further and deeper thinking from our students.

In How technology has changed our idea of ‘knowledge,’ and what this means for schools, Dennis Pierce  refers to research by David Weinberger. The research outlines 4 ways that digital connections are transforming our learning landscape and the implications for schools and “Because it’s not physical, but digital, it’s not unnaturally limiting.”

  • speed
  • true mastery is impossible
  • differences of opinion are both “inevitable – and ok”
  • it leads to an openess of information

I like this idea of open discussion, the idea that there is no obvious answer, differences of opinion are valued . Dan Meyer refers to ” slow resolving built by students”  and ” the level playing field of intuition”. I like this too, but only in the context of thinking what is my learning intention? At this point in my wonderings I really appreciated  the step-by step guide  by Kim Cofino  and it reaffirmed my final project for this course.

“Out of Eden Walk.” Out of Eden Walk.

I have messed around and explored some amazing global collaborative projects and I keep coming back to the Out of Eden Learn Project which promotes meaningful intercultural exchanges among young people. The project encourages young people to take a slow look at what’s around them and their community and to connect to other young people around the world, provoking student driven questions and learning.  The learning intentions are clear, the project has a clear time frame and designated, purposeful assignments for the students. Do I think participating in this project would be meaningful and authentic for myself and my students- absoloutely. Do I think it would encourage my students to dig deeper in their understanding of themselves and their world- absoloutely.Do I think this project embraces and addresses the facet of 21st Century  learning?-absoloutely.

The project/ slow walk takes you through 6 main footsteps, encouraging students to dig deeper along the way.

Tell me more about…

I wonder if…

Help me understand

The power of this project for me is huge.

  • Connecting the students to Paul Salopek and intoducing them to authentic journalism, following his slow walk in his ever changing landscape.
  • Connecting students to their own lives and those of others
  • Giving them the experiences and understanding of how they can plan new journeys in their learning.

“Take a moment to think about where you are in the world,” Paul said. “Take a moment to pause. It’s important to truly understand where you are in the context of your society and of your physical landscape. Every one of us living our lives today is living a life of rediscovery.”

“Out of Eden Walk.” Out of Eden Walk.

I found these two quotes on the Out Of Eden Learn website a perfect summary of the power of global collaborative projects .

My students and I got involved in the Out of Eden project because even though it meant ‘straying’ away from our specified curriculum, the project focuses on things that will be important for students – citizens – to know ten years from now, when they have long since left school…I would say that my students now have a new perspective on an old human story of movement, progress, knowledge, and discovery from having participated in this project. The learning they have gained is above and beyond the history curriculum.” Brenda Ball, Social Studies Teacher and Assistant Principal, Vancouver, Canada

 ” I think when exposed to the details of others’ lives you start noticing your own.”Annie, 10th grader, Massachusetts, USA

I would like to practice some slow looking and some of these footsteps with my class so that we can  be ready to join the walking journey in January , but more importantly spend time understanding why we are joining the journey.

Collaboration by difference respects and rewards different forms and levels of expertise, perspective, culture, age, ability, and insight, treating difference not as a deficit but as a point of distinction.”Cathy N.Davidson

Sometimes I struggle with being a life long learner and then I slow down,  take a look and appreciate the problem solving we are all doing collaboratively and globally through Coetail.













A slow walk with fast connections

This week I have been really fortunate to attend the Zeroing in on Learning Conference, hosted by at the  International School of Amsterdam. I am overwhelmed  by how much thinking and reflection this course and the Coetail course has  prompted. But as I strolled through Amsterdam  I was struck by the buzz, the  beauty and the mixture of the old and new  and I snapped these two images. 

slow walk
fast connection

The fact that we live in a hyperconnected world and have knowledge at our fingertips allows us to connect to authentic and different perspectives in the world quicker, which can only  broaden and deepen our thinking. The speed at which we can connect to these different perspectives gives us more time to reflect and instead of learning through one or two “stories” of how it is, students can very quickly access global perspective. So my AHA moment was:

Connecting students’ thinking  allows for deeper understanding .

However, in a fast moving world of technology perhaps our responsibility as educators is to allow students time to explore their thinking , to walk slowly through their learning, to tinker, to mess around,  to spend time connecting to others and for  their connections to be authentic and purposeful.

These two Grade 1 students first explored, tinkered, and shared their thinking to solve the problem.  The thinking part is nothing new, but the iPad in the background provides the means for this problem to be shared, connected , and developed.

Connecting thinking
students connecting their thinking to build a pyramid

Has Teaching and Learning then changed with the introduction  of new technology tools and if so how? Through reading and reflection my thoughts have ranged from:

 Have we only come this far ? to Look how far we have come to enabling students to be part of this hyperconnected world, to be able to build perspectives by connecting their thoughts and stories to bigger stories and be a true global citizen. Look how far we have come in making global learning visible and breaking down the confines of the classroom walls.

So how is this happening in my classroom?  Examples of small steps towards global thinking and sharing:

exploring, tinkering
researching during literacy
blog 1
sharing expertise
literacy lesson
exploring possibilities for story characters


see think wonder 1
collaborative thinking

By opening up my classroom on my blog I am connecting my students learning and giving the students and wider community a perspective on how we learn in G1SR.

Mimi Ito talks about the importance of the learning that students do outside the classroom. “the learning students do outside school is important for school learning. ” The important role as educators is to ” get informal and formal learning much more coordinated” . My thinking from my reading is that infact, school institutions and some educators are often barriers for true change in the use of technology. In Mark Prensky’s article, Shaping Tech for the Classroom, he talks about how we as educators need to take the lead from the students.  If we want to move the useful adoption of technology forward, it is crucial for educators to learn to listen, to observe, to ask, and to try all the new methods their students have already figured out, and do so regularly.  We need to have the insight in the moment to understand that the balance is shifting about knowing stuff , how we access our learning and what we do with our learning.

In an  interview by Mark Schaefer, Reid Hoffam, the Co-founder of LinkedIn says

“Technology opens up the educational echo chamber by introducing the possibility of learning from a variety of experts and perspectives. It creates an opportunity for global dialogue, expanded connectivity, and the possibility of learning from the best teachers, wherever they may be.”  

With the help of social media tools and platforms, students are collaborating on world-changing projects

photo courtesy of Out of Eden learn

 One of the workshops during this 3 day course was led by Liz Dawes Duraisingh and Carrie James and was based around their global project, Out of Eden Learn, an initiative of Project Zero to use social media to promote meaningful intercultural exchanges among young people. The project encourages young people to take a slow look at what’s around them and their community and to connect to other young people around the world, provoking student driven questions and learning.


Here is an example of an exchange between students following a post by a student in Mumbai India, which includes people playing cricket.

photo coutesy of out of eden learn

Technology has enabled me just in writing this blog to do some ” slow looking” in a fast way as I search for relevant articles, explore different perspectives and read more than “one story” about how technology is changing education. The technology tools are enabling me to make connections with people, their thinking and  perspectives and see a bigger picture. When I was at school as a student there was only one perspective and it depended on the age of the text book. Not much perspective there then.

photo courtsey of

 For me this is the power of how technology is  changing teaching and learning in  schools , we are increasing our perspectives and digging deeper in our thinking. The responsibility part for educators it seems to me is to naturally integrate technology to explore, challenge, focus, connect and deepen students’ thinking and understanding.

 What we teach and how we teach it is paramount. I found Mark Prensky’s article Shaping Tech for the Classroom a little worrying when he talked about ” digital natives” versus ” digital immigrants”. I am definitely from the digital immigrant era and so I hope I am not creating serious barriers to our students’ 21st-century progress. I was then heartened by his closing paragraph when he summarises what we as educators should always be doing  in our teaching and learning,  Let’s adapt it, push it, pull it, iterate with it, experiment with it, test it, and redo it, until we reach the point where we and our kids truly feel we’ve done our very best. Then, let’s push it and pull it some more.

My ” slow walking”  this week led me to making a connection with this video which for me is about our responsibility as educators to ” promote the kind of thinking that is required for learning” .


The opening presentation at the Zero in on Learning Conference, by David Perkins, Professor of Harvard Graduate School of Education really resonated with me. He talked about our responsibility as educators to ” reimage education for learning that matters”. ” Look at the world and see what’s needed to learn. ” ” Reach for the kind of learning that truly connects to a hyperconnected world.”

Are we doing this?



My reflections this week are all about sharing and Will Richardson’s blog post caused me to think.

“The Less You Share, the Less Power You Have”

I am not sure that I am truly embedding technology into my students’ learning, but I am taking small steps in the right direction and I’m using it to share. We take i-Pads with us everywhere, whether it’s maths ouside or inside,  whatever we are exploring . The  i-Pad has become a valuable, practical and natural tool in my students’ learning.

Sharing their understanding about counting strategies.


Technology tools enable my students to learn anywhere about anything within a safe online community. They can help my students  to understand themselves and their thinking. They can  help them to learn about the world faster and more accurately. They can help  to justify or extend their wonderings. They can help my kineasthetic learners,  or my EAL students understand and access their learning more easily. Technology can be a great tool for differentiated or flipped learning. Technology allows me to see more about my students.  It can open up the world to my students to help them become those people who will  change it. The list could go on but my reflection brings me back to how am I going to enable my students to  explore their thinking and develop their understanding  and why would I use technology? In my ponderings this week, I found this article There’s No App for Good Teaching  really useful in helping with my why and how.

Keep learning goals ahead of the technology.

My students  learn by talking and circle time discussions, maths games, role play, writing, enjoying books etc. but the powerful part of using technology for me is in the SHARING . Sharing is the absoloute power of  technology in the classroom. Above all, it is a fast and easy way to make their thinking visible which helps me to help them on their learning journey. One of the first things I show the students when using a new  app is the share icon.

 I have a Talking Corner in my room. This is a space where the students at any time can go and share their thoughts, their learning, frustrations, upsets, joys and funny moments. Their videos tell me a lot. They give me another view into their world, they are often very honest and it helps me to help them.


The sophisticated technology tools that are available to many of us educators  have made this sharing easier, quicker , and global. This can only be win-win for all of us. Use of technology can enable and facilitate learners  to  show and share their learning globally in a relevant, practical and speedy way. Most of the time my students use technology as a tool to show and collaborate in their learning whether it is by using ShowMe, Kidblog, Book Creator or Popplet. Sharing is also about enabling students to shine. It is a great way for students to show their knowledge  about technology and teach others. Blogging helps me to create a community for my students’ learning. The dialogue that then begins through posts and feedback helps my students to think some more. On Friday we had a Professional Development Day at our school and this video by Professor Dylan Wiliam’s was one of the provocations for our discussions. He stated that,

” good feedback causes thinking.”

Last year my class blog became a powerful channel for feedback between home and school,  and I took small steps to  venture out a little to the wider online community.

The true value of the class blog will be when the learning is enhanced, driven, deepened or changed by  developing and extending their blogging community. This year, my goal is to make my class blog a truly global learning tool thanks to the help of some fellow coetailers and the ICT facilitator at school. We are at the beginning of our blogging year and in order for the students to authentically use blogging in their learning there are protocols to learn and share with the parents . Small steps, but students must also have awareness and guidance about digital citizenship.

 I am not yet at the redefinition stage in the SAMR model, but I am getting a little closer.


Acknowledgement to Kathy Schrock

 My role then becomes one to find the best possible pedagogical ways to  drive student led inquiries so that they may become creators and redefine. I need to encourage them to create their own  paths of inquiry and connect their knowledge and wonderings with others and to be challenged by their own risk taking. This is an example of one of my students last year who wanted to share the class  thinking on friendship. She challenged herself to learn to use iMovie to create this collaborative work. Enjoy.

In an article by Katrina Schwartz, The Key to Empowering Educators? True Collaboration, she quotes Marc Prensky.

“It’s not learning a set of stuff that’s the curriculum,” said Marc Prensky, speaker, writer and education consultant. “We are going very quickly away from that. It’s learning a set of skills. And therefore the teacher becomes not the person who gives you information or helps you learn, rather they are more like a sports coach that helps you become.”

Professor David Perkins, founding member of Harvard Project Zero,  in his latest  book,    “Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World”  writes, ” What’s worth learning for contemporary times?”

Right now, my learning has to be about messing around with my blog so that I become more visible and connecting those pings.





What if…..?

What if …..we connected all our ideas and created something new, how powerful would that  be?


 My Grade 1 class enjoys Michael Rosen’s collections of quirky poems and funny scenarios and his What if…? poems are a particular favourite. He takes something we are all familiar with and makes connections to other things we know to create a totally new idea.

What happens with me is quite often I start with a memory, mix it with observations of people I know and then mix in a bit of ‘What if…? – Michael Rosen

What if..?  has become a classroom mantra, either if we want to do some exploring and inquiry or just have a some fun. My class of 6 year olds is no different from others. They start with their personal network and what they understand. They collaborate and share , ask questions, explore different possibilites, make connections, merge ideas and create something new in their understanding and knowledge. But how far do I really take them in their learning? Could I help them go further? I think my constructivist approach now needs to morph more into connectivism.


courtesy of clipartpanda

I both struggled with and enjoyed the push the reading gave me this week about the shift in thinking  from the original Bloom’s Taxonomy to  Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy  by Andrew Churches to account for the new behaviours, actions and learning opportunities emerging as technology advances and becomes more ubiquitous.

It made me think about the possibilities and the whys of true technolgy integration in my classroom. It made me think about my role in helping students to  build skills and strategies to enable them to  develop a more connectivist approach in the digital world.   Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy isn’t about the tools or technologies rather it is about using these to facilitate learning.

I found Kathy Schrock’s visual of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy,  and immediately liked the  connection it gave me. I think it will become one of my anchor posters.


So how have I changed my own thinking to help me develop my classroom practice? Well first I needed to do some messing around in the cause of understanding what is out there and knowing how to integrate these networks and tools in my classroom. There is nothing more frustrating for a student than a teacher who is not sure how to share, download, use imovie or how to record the beat they made on for our poetry lesson.  Or is there…..messing around is becoming an important part of my learning.

Living and Learning with New Media

When messing around, young people begin to take an interest in and focus on the workings and content of the technology and media themselves, tinkering, exploring, and extending their understanding.

Most of the time my messing around has made me look like this this week.


But in my messing around and reading , I think I have truly understood the importance  and value of encouraging a connectivist approach . It has made me realise just how connected I need to be and invested in those connections in order to help my students to become confident connected learners and  future prosumers.

Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.

I have taken small steps, I am now active on Twitter, I have connected all my learning sources on my devices, I am taking those moments to read and reflect on what is out there, I’m finding out where to go, who and what to ask. One of the most powerful, exciting and reassuring thoughts this week  came after reading Terry Heick’s blog,

By building my own learning networks I’m beginning to see just how exciting, rewarding and enabling a digital connection is.

So I’m opening up my classroom thinking and realising that our class blog, show mes, popplet, imovies, could reach out and connect beyond  our school and parents.  What more powerful way to learn than to connect everyone’s thinking to create something amazing, and to pass that amazing thing on. It’s time for me to open up their world more whilst making sure they have the skills and understand  why they are using these connections and networks in their learning.  My role is to help them become critical thinkers in a fast changing world of information , so that they have the tools, knowledge and understanding to live, learn and participate  safely and creatively in this digital world and life.

Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing. George Siemens

This makes me very happy, because there’s a lot I don’t know,  exactly the point for my learning journey.













From lurking to stepping out ….

I know why I’m a lurker…..        article-2525521-066DFBDC000005DC-81_306x423

I like team work and I really thrive on learning from others. I love our Grade 1 planning meetings in which we share our pedagogical ideas and work together to create an exciting, diverse, and challenging curriculum for our students. I like working with a mixed age team of teachers, particularly the tech savvy members whose thinking helps me to broaden my thinking. We are in fact a community that Jeff Utecht refers to in the first chapter of his book Reach. We have a common interest towards the students, we interact with one another and we learn from one another.

This week in Grade 1 we started a unit on Communication, our central idea being

We communicate to build a community

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I opened the discussions with a Think, Puzzle, Explore routine with my 6 year olds. I was particularly struck by something one of my students said when thinking about communication

She said: “No communication is loneliness “.

Later when I read Jeff Utecht’s chapter on Communities and Networks I made an instant connection with the words he used,

“A community only really works if people communicate with one another.”

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It does feel lonely to be part of a community when you don’t participate- things, events and learning happen without you and it’s hard to catch up. But most important, by not participating I am not part of the collaborative learning process, so I can’t direct or help drive my own learning according to my needs or interests.

Jeff Utecht puts this idea so succinctly when he writes:

Activity = Visibility = Connection opportunity

So I come back to wondering why I shut myself away when it comes to the digital world, why do I lurk and not share in the digital communities? I thought I was good at sharing. I lurk because want I to learn, but I also lurk because I’m scared.

I have ideas about how to use technology to promote student learning but I agonise about sharing these or even apologise before I even make a suggestion. I do this because I’m afraid my ideas won’t work or I won’t know how to implement them, because my technology skills don’t match up to my creative ideas and I’ll fail and it will take too long.

I keep referring to Reid Wilson’s image on the Coetail website. “Be comfortable not knowing what is going to happen.” Definitely one for me.


The paradox of all of this is that I say to my class of 6 year olds- make mistakes, have a go, try again, if you’re not sure ask a friend, ask an expert who is good at this, I encourage a “safe failure” environment and one in which I encourage them all to share their skills and thinking. So why don’t I do this in my digital learning communities to help my own learning?

I keep coming back to Jeff Utecht’s writing about participation in Reach.

“The real learning and relationships and network building comes when you become an active part of the community.”

So I am going to start sharing and see what happens. I have been lurking for too many years now, it’s time to step out.

So here’s one of my many deep breath moments and an example of how long I have been lurking. My colleague’s blog on Coetail prompted me to share this. She posted Derek Siver’s video reminding us about sharing ideas.

In 2009 when I was working as an EAL teacher, I had an idea of creating an online picture dictionary to help students and their families have access to English vocabulary whenever they needed. I wanted to create something that not only helped new students with survival vocabulary, but also linked into our units of inquiry to help the students as well as the teachers who were teaching the content, but I didn’t know how to do it. I went with this idea to our ICT Facilitator who suggested using wikispaces to create an online dictionary. Together we created the following resource which grew and grew but I never shared in a wider community and now perhaps it no longer has any relevance.

So I am finally addressing my fear of sharing online and stepping out ,participating in  and building my learning networks and it feels great.

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