School is finally in session here in the Capital City and our students are busy settling in to new routines, earlier mornings, and getting to know their friends and teachers. When I was still in the classroom, one of my favorite things was to spend the first week getting to know my students, learning about their interests, getting their feedback on what they wanted their classrooms to look and feel like, and having them create digital collages and word clouds representing themselves.

Just as we can work hard to make our classrooms warm and welcoming, it’s incredibly powerful when an entire school gets involved and sets a theme for the year. One of the schools in our district – Sheridan Road STEM – embraced the theme of kindness this year, inspired by the book Wonder by R. J. Palacio. In fact, the entire school is reading the book and doing a book study around it, the themes it represents, and embracing the idea of being open to others, being kind to all people, regardless of their appearance, circumstance, or background. What a powerful message for our young people to hear, especially in our current political environment.

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This is a powerful message that schools across the country are embracing and using to connect with others. Some of the things being shared on Twitter with #choosekind are incredibly inspiring. I personally haven’t read this book yet, but I am very excited to participate in the book study along with the teachers and students at Sheridan Road STEM. 

How will you #choosekind this year?


Digital Citizenship Lesson

Today I had the opportunity to speak to 7th and 8th grade students about the importance of Digital Citizenship and their Digital Footprint. We used pieces of the outstanding curriculum from Common Sense Media.

We began with a discussion about what a Digital Footprint shows about a person, what assumptions people might make about them if they were to trace a person’s digital footprint, its impact on future selves. I was really impressed with students’ ability to think about the big picture and the future consequences their behaviors today may have. We then watched this video to remind students of how your digital footprint can grow, even without our permission.

Once we discussed some of the negatives that would happen, we talked about ways students can make sure their Digital Footprint is reflective of what they would want the world to think about them. Students worked in groups to make lists of the things they should do or avoid doing in order to be mindful of the type of digital footprint you are leaving.

2014-09-12 10.25.182014-09-12 10.28.20 2014-09-12 10.28.37A couple of things I posed to students I’m still puzzling over – we know what we’re supposed to do and what we’re NOT supposed to do, so why do these conversations still have to happen? Why do we still hear stories about cyber bullying leading to tragic consequences? Why are celebrities, politicians, athletes, etc. occasionally in the news about negative things that have happened to them? More importantly, students know what they’re supposed to do if they see or are privy to cyber bullying or other inappropriate content on their various social media and school accounts. Yet, over and over again, the majority of them stand by and do not speak up. I don’t blame students; many adults engage in the same types of behavior. Either we perpetuate it or we work to end it. Doing nothing does nothing to end the problem.

Today’s work is another way I work with teachers to help educate their students not only on the consequences of their digital footprints and choices they make, but on how to continue to spread the message of how to use technology appropriately. As adults, we remember a world where technology was not such an integral part of our lives, but our students don’t. We have to teach them – and not just once or twice – how to harness its power for good and how to increase and build educational opportunities for them.

Your Turn:

How can we continue to educate students (and others) about our digital footprint? 

What ways can we model appropriate usage of social media so students know what it looks like?