It’s just citizenship, period.

Before summerbreak, it’s a great time to remind students and staff to take a digital detox, or to beef up their digital image. In honor of our upcoming spring break, I’ve added some new resources to assist in this:

  • NYC Department of Education’s guide to creating a better digital image
  • NYC Department of Education’s guide to social media
  • NYC Department of Education’s guide to social media (for teachers)

Check out the full “Let’s Get Digital” presentation as well as for all things innovation!

Let’s get Digital

Before spring break, it’s a great time to remind students and staff to take a digital detox, or to beef up their digital image. In honor of our upcoming spring break, I’ve added some new resources to assist in this:

  • NYC Department of Education’s guide to creating a better digital image
  • NYC Department of Education’s guide to social media
  • NYC Department of Education’s guide to social media (for teachers)

Check out the full “Let’s Get Digital” presentation as well as for all things innovation!

Become a search ninja & fake news detective

Fake news is more than just evaluating sources for their legitimacy. It’s also understanding the way search results are sorted – their algorithms. Without understanding this, it’s easy to live in a “filter bubble.”

For today’s addition to “Becoming a Search Ninja,” I’ve added in a section on how to detect fake news and how to understand the science behind your search results. Being a search ninja is not only about searching effectively, but understanding how searching works.

Check out the new additions to “Becoming a Search Ninja” below (new additions appear after slide 89). You may also check out for a digital citizenship approach to searching.

Digital Citizenship Week is upon us!

This week is Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship week! Due to the nature of our school, we’ve elected to hold our digital citizenship week on November 7-11 (right over election day!). So, I hope this post finds you in time.

Last year, we stepped up our digital citizenship game. This year, we have streamlined it.

We started by revising our D-day program (or digital citizenship day). Last year, we asked teachers to pick an activity from our D-Day website on the first Wednesday of each month. Since it relied a lot of teachers figuring out discussion questions to go with it, it was not as well received. Though it was better than before, we knew it could be better. So, this year, we kept the same schedule, but created a presentation template. The template features a short 1-2 minute video, questions, and a reflection. Since starting this, we have received positive feedback. We also make sure we only give them one option to use. This helps with reducing the number of questions and potential confusion.

This year, we met with our boarding students to discuss issues students found relevant in regards to digital citizenship. After a 30 minute conversation, it was clear the most important topic to them was students’ brands – what brand are you online, in person? How do you protect that brand? Do you respect others’ brands? Etc..

With that in mind, we decided to focus our efforts on “defining your brand” for this year’s digital citizenship week.

To see how we will celebrate, check out our site dedicated to digital citizenship week.

And, for more information our our digital citizenship program, check out “Let’s get digital” citizenship.

Have examples of other activities? I’d love to hear them!

Bring the power of digital citizenship to a school near you

This year, I took a new position, which gave me a chance to start fresh with digital citizenship. Over the course of the year, I documented our process for easy implementation at other schools.

Check out our progress and share your success, challenges, and learnings!

Check out for all things digital citizenship as well as Let’s Get Digital: Citizenship.

Raising student voices – the power of a positive online presence

I speak often about how I dislike the idea of focusing on what not to do online. We spend a lot of time instilling fear in adults and students about the online world rather than teaching them how to use to make change. In the process of teaching the don’ts, we’ve actually stopped teaching. We’ve started fearing. 

So this year, we’ve made an effort to focus less on the don’ts and more on the dos. 

Yesterday, we held two chapel services – one for middle school students and one for high school students (we are a private Episcopalian school so it works!). Over the past two months, we recruited various students who were rumored to have online presences. These online environments could be anything from a music sharing site, YouTube channel to a crowdsource funding page. 

After getting a list of all of the rumored students, I sent out emails and used word of mouth to get in touch with the students. Though it took several attempts, I was able to get four high school and two middle school students to present, which was perfect due to our time limitations. 

I met with each group, provided them with a script and turned them loose with a few questions.

The rest…they did. And, I was blown away. 

I let each student know they would have three minutes or less to share their online presence, using my questions as guidance. I assigned them an order and asked them to send me the specific links they wanted us to show while in chapel. Once we received the links, we took screenshots of them in the event Wifi went down, and we reviewed the content. One student’s music site had curse words in the comments section. Though, the student brought this up ahead of time and reminded us to make sure not to show certain sections. 

I wish I had recorded the chapels, but I only managed to sneak a few photos of the students. I asked a teacher to read a quick 30 second intro and conclusion before the students spent the remaining 12 minutes sharing their work. 

Below is the script I sent students and assisting faculty. 

Topic: Feature 3-4 students at SSES who use their online presence for positive actions.
Date: 4/12/16


  • Overview – narrate: “Today, we have several St. Stephen’s students here to share examples of their online presence. Your online presence is anything that can be found when Googling your name. It’s important to not only avoid negative topics, but to make your name noticeable through the positive things you do online. For example, you can create a crowdsourcing page to raise money for a charity. You can start your own art portfolio. You can teach others on YouTube. Find your passion and share it. The following students did just that.” Teacher narrator.
  • Introduce students in order (in background, project student site)
  • Student 1 [steps to mic/podium]: (about 2-3 minutes)
    • explain what your online presences is
    • show what your online presence is
    • explain why you created your online presence
    • explain how you created your online presence
  • Repeat for other students (2-3 minutes for each student)
  • Conclusion – narrate: “Please help support these students. And, we challenge you to start something positive online. Raise money for a cause near to you. Teach others your skill. Share with others your passion.” Teacher narrator.

Each student was unique. No student fit any particular description. This helped keep it diverse and more approachable. One student even passed out fliers for interested girls who wanted to join her organization.

The bottom line – help raise student voices. Don’t instill fear in those voices. I’m sure our chapel did not change behavior overnight, but I hope it did inspire others to use their voice to do good. I want to teach students to be positive. But, to do that, they have to use their voices.

So, I challenge you to raise student voices!

I hope you can share the positive presences your students have cultivated!

#YourEduStory: The importance of citizenship

This week’s topic: Why do all students need to be digital citizens?

I’d change this to say “why do all students need to be citizens?” Whether you are on a digital or traditional platform, citizenship still applies. When the term digital citizenship is used, other educators assume it is the job of “tech” teachers to instruct. However, that could not be further from the truth. It’s everyone’s job just as general citizenship is everyone’s job. 
I am responsible for digital citizenship (along with the librarians) for digital citizenship. And, while I love the task, I know it’s more than our jobs – it’s everyone’s job. So, when we talk about digital citizenship, we need to be careful to reinforce the idea that everyone is part of it. The word “digitial” to some implies that it is for those of us who are digitally inclined (and I could write a separate blog on how we are all so-inclined.)
At my school, I started a digital citizenship focus group (yes, I know I hate the preface word) run by several teachers. Together, we created a Website for all staff to use. We have held (holding) two masses – one in the fall and one in the spring – for all students on how to be positive citizens. The lessons focus not on what NOT to do, but on what TO do. In April, we are organizing a chapel with three student speakers to present on their online presences. We want to highlight examples of how other students are using the online platform to do good. 
We want all students to be citizens because we want all students to make an impact. Every impact spreads. 
Digital citizenship is citizenship. By withholding devices or refusing to teach with devices, we are not showing students who to be positive citizens. Instead, we are only showing them what not to do. 
I watch as my brother and sister-in-law hand iPads and Kindles to my 3-year old niece. From an early age, she is figuring out how to make use of technology. We are not showing her. Rather, she is figuring it out in a way that she feels benefits her. But, what about creation? We only show consumption of technology. Children watch videos, listen to music, and play games. Where and when are they creating? This is part of being a citizen – a productive, creating member of society. 
We need all entities in students’ lives focused on providing opportunities for creation. When your child or student complains about something missing, have you helped them design a solution? Have you helped them use technology in a way that makes a difference? 
It’s not just important for our students to be positive citizens, but it’s important for us to. I can count very few of my colleagues who are using technology in a meaningful and impactful way both in the personal & professional lives. We need to model this use. We can’t be afraid of it. 
What will you do to make an impact? How will you make a difference? I started a blog last year, the Snapshot Diaries, to focus on the moments each day that I’m thankful for. It’s small, but it’s meaningful and it holds me accountable. It’s okay to start small. Just start.

Pursuing Positivity

This post was originally published in my Chasing Life’s Lillie’s blog

Don’t sext. Don’t put revealing photos of yourself online. Don’t friend those you don’t know. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.

The list goes on. We’re full of the “don’ts,” but we should be promoting the “dos.” We should pursue positivity. We should challenge students to do positive work online. 

The truth is we all do the “don’ts” online. I still keep my phone on and next to me while I sleep – a major “don’t.” At times, I feel anxious if I haven’t checked my phone for notifications. And, I know not to do this. 

It isn’t that we want to do the “don’ts.” We know it’s not right, yet, we still do it because it’s easy and we aren’t faced with alternatives. We are not educated on the positive uses of the online world. These are the alternatives.

So, let’s educate. Let’s pursue positivity. Let’s create. And, let’s share.

Step 1: Start with a simple brainstorm

Recently, I met with seventh and eighth grade students to brainstorm a positive online presence. We used Google Docs so students could type simultaneously and all ideas could be present whether or not they are verbalized. 

I challenge you to challenge your students or children to discuss orally and in writing.

Ask them:

1. What makes a positive online presence (POP)?

2. What are examples of positive online presences at [your school]? 

3. What are examples of positive online presences outside of [your school]? (Start a list for students so they can visualize what POPs look like. This is the list I started for students.)

4. What types of positive online presences would you like to see at [your school]? 

5. What platforms work best for positive online presences at [your school]? (Provide students with a few examples to help them get started. Then, ask them to think deeper.)

  • Examples: app creation, Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/SnapChat, blog, Website…

6. What are the obstacles/negative sides of those positive online presences? (Challenge students to consider all populations and their obstacles. For instance, will males feel as open to be express positive images on Instagram as females?)

  • Consider all students – what will we use and what helps us?

7. What will we create today? (Challenge students to work together to create one for the school and then, if they’d also like to create one on their own, they can.)

  • You can create individually as well, but today we will create one for the school

8. How will we continue this and ensure it stays positive? (This is the most important question – how will you ensure longevity and monitor negative infringement?)

9. Other thoughts? 

Allow for all opinions. Redirect those who fall off-task. Check out our first brainstorming session

Step 2: Small group discussion

Quickly break into groups of 2-3 students. Challenge them to brainstorm positive online presences they would like to create. Ask them to think of:

  • a name for the online presence (some said “Meet the Spar-dashians” since we are the Spartans)
  • who is the audience
  • what is the purpose
  • what is the content
  • how can we be sure it stays positive
  • how can we ensure all are represented 
Due to time limitations, students received only 20 minutes for this process. However, this can be stretched longer. We resorted to traditional pencil and paper to reiterate positive behavior in all media. 

Some examples:

Step 3: Draw it out

Due to time restraints, I was not able to include this important step in all classes. After students map out the outline of their “POPs,” ask them to draw a sample of the product. If it is an app, what will the home screen look like? If it’s a Website, what will it look like. 

This does not need to be a full storyboard. Rather, the intent is to get students to refine their ideas.

Next, we will begin the creation, sharing, and maintenance of the “POPs.” We must decide how to fit in the creation. When will we find time in the schedule? Who will be part of this – will we include all students are just some? 

Step 5: Creation is equally as important as brainstorming. 

Step 6: Sharing.  Sharing instills intrinsic motivation. We like to see our work get attention. Share the “POPs” in a way students receive some attention and others see positive work showcased. We need to bring attention to positive behavior. 

Step 7: Maintenance. Maintain the positive presence. Will this product stay with students, the school? 

Stay tuned for follow-up on the final three steps when we meet again. 

Digital Learning Day is next week! Resources for you! #dlday

Next week is the fifth annual digital learning day on February 17.

To get ready for it, here is my school’s digital citizenship program – a perfect time to start up a similar one at your school!

This year, we started a focus group that meets once every month or two to plan for future events. On the first Wednesday of every month, all advisories choose a “d-day” (for digcit day) activity of their choice to discuss or complete. Many are current events with the goal to promote discussion and awareness in this first year. We held a chapel in the fall for all students and are organizing a student panel and chapel for the spring, featuring current students who have a positive online presence. We have also held monthly parent talks since November focusing on creative active digital creators rather than passive digital consumers.

We will hold a week long celebration of activities for digital learning day, starting with a hands-on parent activity on Monday. Parents will complete the Makey Makey challenge, among many other activities promoting active learning.

Check out the full line-up here of our plans.  Want some resources for digital storytelling? Try out the ones in this chart. Sadly, some do require purchasing…

What are you doing for digital learning day?