The Creation Process of a Digital Citizen(ship Unit)

To say I was a tad resistant to technology at the beginning of this course would be an understatement.  Up until last year I still used an overhead projector to display my transparency sheets!  I was one of those teachers who believed that cell phones had no place in the classroom, and were in fact a hindrance to student learning.  It’s become quite apparent to me, over the course of this semester, that technology is here to stay.  In fact, I think an even greater personal revelation was that if I could just figure out how to effectively use the technology that was available to me, I could use it to my advantage to increase the engagement and learning of my students!

In my most recent blog post I’d written, “Teachers need to utilize the technology present within the classroom to teach their students the skills to become responsible consumers and distributors of information, rather than simply telling them how to be skeptical”.  I believe this truly summarizes the pinnacle of my learning journey over the course of this semester.  While I honestly felt that I was coming away with new learning and ideas after every single class, my biggest takeaway was that I was in a prime position to encourage, support, and facilitate the digital habits, awareness, and overall footprint of my students.  As Jana Wlock commented, “As education continues to evolve, there will inevitably be new skills and technology and ways of learning that will require explicit teaching and adult modelling.” This notion really served as a driving force behind my development of a Digital Citizenship unit for my students.


Throughout the semester, the weekly lessons, and insightful blog posts made by classmates really provided me with great ideas and perspectives to both enhance and include in my lesson planning.  For example, Carter Davis blogged about working collaboratively with his class to create a digital citizenship policy and Megan Weisbrod shared the “quick tips” that she’s implemented in her classroom to her students address fake news.  The ideas and feedback that I received from classmates throughout the semester has been invaluable to my learning experience.

Initially I started out with just a framework of what I thought would be beneficial to teach my students, and then I was able to add content and ideas to my outline as the semester progressed.  I readily admit that this is still very much a learning process for me, but I’m very much looking forward to continuing this journey alongside my students.  I think the fact that I’ve created my unit as a Google Doc is really important, as it can be altered and improved as I roll it out with my students and begin to see what works well, and what could be improved.  In addition, I think that it’s imperative that it can be edited to incorporate new content each year, because as we’ve seen, technology is rapidly evolving.

My ultimate goal with this unit is to not only expose my students to the concept of digital citizenship and to help them become responsible and critical consumers, but also to provide them with the opportunity to create a positive digital footprint.  What better time to begin to make a mark on the digital world than when entering the middle-years domain.  My hope is that through blogging about their journey and learning experience, they can positively impact those who read their blogs.  I’d also love to see them become facilitators of learning for their friends, siblings, and even their own parents by sharing the knowledge and understanding that they incur throughout the unit.


Finally, the issue of accessibility was discussed several times throughout the semester, and I honestly believe that education is the answer to bridging this gap.  It’s true that not every student has access to a cell phone or home computer, but every child goes to school, and every school is equipped with technology. I would love to see the presence of technology increase in our schools to the point that we one day reach a 1:1 ratio.  If we can provide the opportunity to all students to have unlimited access, exposure, and technical training, I truly believe that we will diminish the educational attainment divide that has plagued our school systems for far too long.  I guess you could say I’ve come a long way from trying to ban cell phones from my classroom at the beginning of the year!

Click the image below to access my unit on Digital Citizenship.  Feel free to use… and share any feedback or ideas that arise.  Thanks for an unbelievable semester!

EC&I Cover



Summary of Learning- Another Great Class in the Books!

Well I dipped my toes into my first Alec Couros tech. class, and it did not disappoint!  It’s no wonder so many of you are repeat offenders!  I was very hesitant initially, as I don’t consider myself very technologically savvy.  However, the content shared throughout the course provided me with many great tools that will not only help me assist my students in becoming better digital citizens, but will also enhance my development of engaging and relevant lesson for my class (Hello Powtoon!).  The weekly discussion was so relevant, that I left each class with ideas for things to incorporate into my own teaching… and learning.  The selection of guest speakers was fantastic, and they both brought really interesting perspectives and experiences into our “classroom”.  Both the Blog Hub and the Google Community really made me feel supported, as well as enhanced my learning each week.  I’ve never before been part of a class that felt so engaged, and invested in contributing to the experience of the entire learning community. So thank you all!

The following is the summary of learning that I completed with my partner in crime, Danielle Istace.  We hope you enjoy our spin on things as we dive into the past semester with our “Couros Cruise”.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Please find the script from our summary of learning posted below the video!

Oh hi there, uhm… where’d you come from Bree? I guess I can’t really get much privacy hanging ‘round the web these days, can I. What’s a girl to do?

You see, we’ve been busy trying to claim our citizenship as Digi Citz this winter, by trying to figure out what Digital Citizenship actual means… I mean… do you know what it is anyways? Well, hey, don’t sweat this. Let us tell you…. After all, it’s what we’ve been trying to figure out. . . and it’s pretty clear that some people out there, really have no idea.

Let’s take a little trip together, like “Magic School Bus Style”. Think of me as Ms. Frizzle, as I’m starting to get comfortable with this media literacy business.  Bree, I’m happy you decided to join me for this round of the “Couros Cruise”.  Let’s hop on the Digi Citz bus and re-visit what EC&I 832 was all about! Buckle up, this is one fast ride, and you don’t wanna get left behind.

So let’s get to it. First stop. Digital Citizenship. This was a big theme this semester. Basically, this refers to norms of appropriate and responsible technology use.  Brittany Frick nailed it in her Content Catalyst, when she mentioned that Sklar called Digital Citizenship, the new citizenship.  Unfortunately for us, the digital world is so fast paced, that it is hard to keep up… and that means that many of its users have no idea what is considered appropriate technology use.

Take these guys for example. Yawzahhh that’s a real doozey. There are too many sad cases of media getting a hold of the wrong picture, story or post, and then having these hand delivered on a first class train to the rest of the world. Stop. Ask yo-self…. Would your momma want you posting that? Think about it. Think. About. It. Exactly.

Next up, our instructor Alec took the time to shoot some pretty interesting theory our way. Let’s head over to foundational theories in Media Education next. What does this mean? Well…. As with any great Graduate class, the basis of all good learning, is grounded in theory. This class did not disappoint. Let’s take a look at a few key theories. Take technological determinism for starters. This theory presumes that a society’s technology determines what we use. Like the Walkman for example. Man…. People feared the Walkman. In fact, word on the street was that the Walkman would result in people becoming antisocial. They really had no idea what was coming….

Then there is Techno-utopianism. That’s a mouthful. Basically, this is the idea that technology does really wonderful things for society. Or the opposite, distechnotopianism. . . Which portrays technology as a beast… If you feed the beast, it will destroy you. DON’T FEED THE BEAST!

Okay, let’s haul this bus on over to the Digitally Networked world next. Before we stop this bus, do you know who you are in the digital world? Alec had us dive into some great material that helped us to understand Prensky’s concepts of digital natives and immigrants. David White countered these ideas though, and proposed the ideas of residents and visitors. To us, this idea was a better fit. We simply couldn’t agree with people being referred to as digital natives simply by virtue of being born in a certain decade. Regardless, wherever you lie in the digitally networked world, your interaction online, creates a digital tattoo… and sometimes people don’t realize its permanence until it is too late.

Documents like Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements, Alec and Katia’s Digital Citizenship Document, and blogs like fellow classmate Stacey Bradley’s help us to realize that we have to take responsibility for who we are online. Stacey set out to find out if it was possible to maintain different profiles online, depending on what your personal or professional purpose was… and the reality is, that no matter how hard you try to keep things separate online, the space between different accounts, profiles, and intentions, is a big grey blurred line. It intersects everything and makes it virtually impossible for educators to keep personal and professional lives separate… so there ya have it. What you blog, post, or even like in the past, may catch up to you in your present and impact your future. WHAT WOULD YOUR MOMMA SAY?! If she’d say no…. JUST DON’T POST IT!!!

That takes us to our next stop… Which is a heart breaking one. We’ll call this stop “A Choice Gone Wrong”.  Amanda Todd is just one example among many, of young people that were taken too soon, because of the reality that you just can’t choose your audience. And… the sad truth is, that you can try, but you can’t always successfully choose your audience. Many of today’s youth suffer from the anxiety of getting caught up in a moment and making a horrific choice that in some cases, costs them the ultimate price.

So that takes us to here, “The Role of the School”. Let’s take a look at what we are responsible for in preparing our students to be digitally literate. Within the schools, we can start by teaching digital citizenship at a very young age. We can do this by first educating ourselves. We can help students to begin understanding how to weigh the risk versus the reward of posting something online. This is a good lesson for students, and teachers alike. Look at Trump for example. It’s clear to see that he has not been showing up to our Digi Citz class… and if he did, he’d surely learn a thing or two from those of us, north of the border.

Speaking of Trump, we need to mention what we learned in terms of fake news.  Students today are having a very difficult time differentiating authentic from fabricated news.  In fact, according to Jaimie and Jocelyn’s content catalyst presentation, “80% of students are unable to identify a fake news story from a real news story”.  This is alarming!  We really loved what Meagan Weisbrod suggested about doing “quick-check-ins” with her students when determining the authenticity of a news story 1. Check the publishing date 2. Check the source 3. Check the information on another website.  We look forward to using this strategy in our own classes.

Pat Maze served as a great example of WHAT WE SHOULD DO. We educate. We educate the children by modelling, scaffolding, and immersing them in safe, supported environments where they can learn alongside their peers and an instructor. We invite people like Pat Maze to classes to engage in meaningful discourse with teachers… hopefully giving us some food for thought to help us stand up against things we disagree with, and to educate us on things that we did not know. We use documents like the “Digital World: 10 Tips for teachers” or Couros’ Digital Citizenship Guide, to help lead our practices…. And we carefully craft our digital foot prints to reflect the best sides of us that we have to offer. Jennifer Scheffer is a great example of this. By helping each student leaving high school to create a Linked In profile, she was able to better prepare them for the chance of getting hired for their dream job.

As educators, this is our goal. We want to prepare our children for the real world. But today, the real world and the virtual world are equally as important. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the impact that results from our online activity. By creating digitally literate and responsible students, we have the power to help them forge into the future with opportunities that are as bright and exciting as these children are.

This brings us to the end of the ride folks, and it has been a good one! Hopefully you have gained a little bit of food for thought in reflecting on your journey, and considering where you want to head next. The digital world can be an exciting place to be. Let’s make sure that everyone engaging in this, knows the rules of the road, so that they can make an informed decision about the bus they choose to hop on, and get to their planned destination without too many bumps in the road.

Thanks Alec for helping us spread our virtual wings, and to become part of the change that we want to see in education!

Teaching Skeptical Consumption

I would consider myself to be a fairly skeptical consumer of online news and media.  On an average day, the majority of my exposure to online news stories would come from social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram.  I find that I most often regard the news headlines with the automatic assumption that they have been grossly exaggerated for the shock value to increase the number of views and hits they receive.  However, when I come across a headline that I find personally relevant, I always check the news source first.  If it’s a known and reputable publication, for example linked from The Regina Leader Post website, I’ll most often go to visit their website in order to view the article directly from the source.

After considering my personal consumption of online media and news, I’ve come to the conclusion that a big reason why I look at the news source, is because it’s the way in which I was raised to view and understand news.  Growing up I got my facts from the newspaper while reading it with my dad at the breakfast table.  Through this shared experience, we engaged in dialogue about what we were reading, which gave me the opportunity to form opinions and gain an overall better understanding of what was going on around our city, our country, and our world.

Image result for father and daughter reading newspaper


This, unfortunately, is not the experience that many of our students have in their news consumption.  I would venture to guess that many of our students have been exposed to technological devices for the majority of their lifetime, and may not have received adequate lessons in terms of how to be socially aware and responsible consumers, and distributors, of online information.  This begs the question, what can we, as educators, do to ensure that we facilitate the experiences that create the most digitally aware citizens?  As Amy  shared as content catalyst, “We need to teach students how to use technology and social media appropriately and responsibly… We can’t assume they are using it appropriately for the classroom context.”  She raised several good ideas in terms of what teachers can do to create a strong environment for learning including, monitoring use for transparency, remain cognitive of student access, ensure that tech. use adheres to curriculum, and educate students about plagiarism.

Joe directed us towards Harry Dyer’s TedTalk in which he discusses how the rise of social media is not destroying communication as many fear, but rather it’s enhancing it.  They have become proficient in interacting in a new way, and many who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the digital world may not understand just how this type of communication functions.  I believe this is why it’s so important that teachers continue to learn and engage alongside their students in developing their digital citizenship.  Teachers need to actively construct lessons that call upon the technical students that their students are familiar and comfortable with, and utilize that opportunity to ensure that their students are developing their citizenship in a responsible and meaningful way.  Teachers need to utilize the technology present within the classroom to teach their students the skills to become responsible consumers and distributors of information, rather than simply telling them how to be skeptical, build it into the lessons and learning that takes place within the classroom.

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Becoming Fully Literate… Reading Between the Lines

Never before have I realized that distinguishing between fake news and authentic news was such a difficult endeavor.  However, according to a Harvard study that was highlighted by Jaimie and Jocelyn, “80% of students are unable to identify a fake news story from a real news story”.  As was indicated by Logan Petlak , it is imperative that we teach our students to become more media literate, and fake news presents a great opportunity for learning… teaching our students to have healthy skepticism.  This really got me to thinking about how I could incorporate the development of this type of skeptical learning into my major project unit development.  Why not present the students with various news stories and headlines, some authentic and some fake, and have them attempt to distinguish between the two based on some of the skills outlines by Logan.  These include:

  • Consider the source
  • Author credentials
  • Date posted
  • Check biases
  • Read beyond post
  • Supporting sources within the article

I’m really excited to move forward with this aspect of my project!


I found it interesting that Regan  found research that indicated that “[In terms of distinguishing fake news] same results found in poorer, under-resourced schools as in wealthier schools.”  I think this further perpetuates the notion that teaching digital citizenship and media literacy falls into the laps of the educational system. What other institution has access to all types of learners regardless of socio-economic background? In order to educate and support a fully literate future generation, teachers must incorporate the use of different technological tools throughout all lessons and subject areas.  Teachers not only need to teach their student how to properly use technological equipment and programs, but also how to be critical consumers, and informed purveyors of information.  The technological age, while relatively new and emergent within the educational system, is here to stay.  Educators need to move beyond the tried and tested teaching methods and systems that have been used over the course of the last century (as they were developed to support the needs of the industrial revolution) and restructure and direct the methods to meet the needs of the technological demands that are going to inform the direction of our future!


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To teach or not to teach…

I don’t think that’s the question.

As Dani Hackel explained, our students are completely surrounded by and immersed in the digital world, and it’s no longer a question of if digital citizenship should be taught, but rather how it should be taught in order to foster and encourage the informed viewpoints of our students.  She argued that digital literacy should be taught in much the same way as math or reading, and I have to agree. I think teachers often rely on their personal experiences within education to base their teaching philosophies and perspectives, and because many of us completed much of our educational journeys prior to the digital age, we don’t always see the value or importance of including technological components within our lessons.  However technology is here to stay, and is only going to continue to become more visible and prominent within society.  I think rather than resisting the inclusion of technology within the classroom (ie. no cellphone policies) we instead learn how it can be utilized to best serve the learning needs of our students, and ultimately use it to our advantage as an educational tool.


A big part of teaching media literacy to our students, is helping them to become critical consumers. I really appreciated how Erin Wiley equated media literacy to skepticism in her Powtoon.  What a great comparison!  Staci Senger furthered these ideas when she discussed that the role of teachers should include assisting our students in developing skills to look deeper into the message.  She emphasized the importance of asking questions and becoming inquisitive consumers of media information. Jaque Bampi also touched on this point when she discussed that the information to which students are exposed should not be censored, but rather teachers should be present to look and watch alongside them to offer support, understanding and guidance.  To be honest I was so mesmerized by Jaque’s voice that I listened to her video three times (have you ever heard anything so melodic and soothing!!) Girl, you need to break into the world of audio book recording artist, so that I can buy every one!!


Finally, Mr. Pat Maze… that man is as charismatic as they come!  I’ve always eaten up everything he says, and it doesn’t hurt when he’s just so darn bang on when he speaks.  When he discussed the responsibility of teachers to teach new methods and inform students, I believe that spoke directly to the issue of teaching digital literacy in school.  For some students, their time at school is the most consistent, routine and reliable time that they experience.  How can we not utilize that platform to inform them about what may be considered one of the biggest influencers in their life?  It is our responsibility as teachers to not only educate our students about what technology is, but also how to use it critically and responsibly, how they can use it to their advantage moving forward in their educational and professional lives, and how to decipher between what’s reality and what is socially constructed.

Now, as far as the discussion about the dichotomy of personal and professional spheres, I think there’s still some work to be done, and some precedents to be set, but I’m hopeful that this is something that we’ll establish over time as people continue to become more familiar with, and comfortable in, the digital age.




New Age Goal Setting

This week I made a self-realization… I’m a cynical pessimist.  Okay that may be a tad extreme, but there were definitely some “glass half empty” moments.  I realized that when I hear “digital footprint”, I have a deficit-based mindset, in that I assume the worst in terms of what people put out into the digital world. I came to this conclusion when we were tasked with the “Digital Sleuthing Activity” (which was awesome!!)  Immediately upon commencing my detective work, I thought, “I’m going to dig up something real good.”  I consider myself a bit of a Facebook Creeping Aficionado, and I was certain that I was going to dig up every bit of dirt there was to dig up on this poor social experiment volunteer.

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via Google Images

Fortunately, what I came to realize was that this American high school tech. teacher, had done an outstanding job of censoring her online presence to the point that there was no real dirt to speak of.  In fact, through images of folk fests, beer tastings, and adorable pictures of her toddler, I’m pretty sure we could be best friends!  I very much appreciated that while maintaining her professional appeal, she still came across as a very authentic, approachable, and fun-loving individual.  Censorship does not have to pretentious and boring!!

This brings me to my second revelation  (and no I don’t have a revelation every time that I study!). What if we worked with our students to develop their digital footprint in the same way that we work with them on goal-setting? As Jocelyn Carr alluded to, perhaps digital footprints can be more accurately referred to as digital tattoos, due to their permanence. As was stated during this week’s class, “Be the person you want to present to the world”.  Through education, why don’t we embrace our students’ technological activism, and utilize it as a platform to discuss personal, educational, and social goals. As Wendy explored in her blog, technology should be embedded throughout the classroom and curriculum to “invent, design, create, and build”. In addition, Megan discussed the importance of classroom teachers being proactive vs. reactive in terms of preparing our students for society.

As the mother of an almost two-year old son, I am already aware of his emerging digital footprint.  As a parent, I want to ensure that when he “takes over” his digital identity, I’ve created a solid foundation that includes, a pictorial “scrapbook” of positive travel experiences, personal accomplishments, and depicts a strong, and loving social support system.  I want him to understand the care that I put into developing his online presence, and hope that he builds on it with the same thoughtfulness.  I believe that these same ideas can carry over to our classrooms, and our students, in guiding and assisting them in the development of their own digital footprint.


My classmates are geniuses!

Well a lot of food for thought this week, starting with some excellent content catalyst presentations.  I honestly had to start a Word Doc to get down some of the fantastic information that was being presented.  A major take-away for me, in terms of my major project, was just how imperative it is that digital citizenship and digital identity be taught to elementary school students.  It was very interesting to listen to Jessica and Katie express how important they see developing digital literacies and citizenship in high school students, and then to stretch it even further, to  gain insight from Krisanne’s experience in post-secondary education.  I’m really starting to gain an understanding of why the development of Digital Citizenship education in the Middle Years is so crucial.  (In addition, I may take away a little T-Swift motivation music to get my students going!)  So many amazing ideas and perspectives that I can utilize to build upon when developing my unit!  To quote the Pointer Sisters, “I’m so excited” to get going on this project…

via GIPHY 

Upon reading Carter’s Blog, I was drawn to one quote in particular, “I gave my students a voice and together we came up with a very interesting and effective policy that will keep our class engaged and safe when it comes to technology”.  I think this is such an imperative consideration in terms of engaging students and making their learning experience relevant.  If we want our students to “buy-in” to what we’re teaching, they need to be part of the process.  In addition to their involvement in the inaugural stages, I think it’s imperative to encourage feedback from them and do regular check-ins throughout the unit.  Similarly to Carter, this is certainly a learning experience for me as well, and I hope I am able to capitalize on this unique opportunity for authentic collaboration and learning alongside my students.  In fact, I sincerely hope that they will take the opportunity to teach me a thing or two along the journey!

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Finally, I was very intrigued my Alec’s comment concerning “What is beyond Ribble’s 9?”  I think this is a very significant issue, due to the quickly evolving nature of technology.  If we, as teachers, are tasked with the responsibility of teaching and developing digital citizenship among our students, we need to be thinking about what’s coming next, and how do we equip our students to deal with new issues as they emerge.  I believe the key to this is to stay connected to our students.  Foster relationships of trust and sharing, so that they feel comfortable to come to us as they encounter new challenges in their technological world.