Helping Students Tell Their Story Through Social Media


Helping Students Tell Their Story Through Social Media

by TeachThought Staff

Human beings are storytellers by nature.

Children especially love to hear stories, but aren’t always so keen on telling their own. Partly because they’re kids. Telling stories is more about the imagination and the curiosity and even the tall tales, and less about articulating a narrative to a specific audience through innovative tools.

Advertising has become about telling stories as well—letting a company, CEO, or even customers explain who they are, where they come from, and what they value is the social media way.

Even our social media profiles are forms of storytelling. Through our avatars, photos we share, updates, likes, comments, RTs, favoriting, and other seemingly minor actions, we leave footprints that tell a story of where we’ve been, what we like, who we relate to, and how we want to be seen.

But in this social media era of powerful tools and always-on visibility, how can we coach students to tell their own story, but with care, craft, and tact, and in a way that communicates the right message with the right audience? This is at the core of digital citizenship.

With the available modern technology, it’s more possible now than ever before to tell incredible stories using amazing tools to the widest of audiences.

8 Tips For Helping Students Tell Stories In A Social Media World

1. Have A Story To Tell

This one is obviously important. To tell a story digitally and via social media, you’ll need something to say. Too often the focus is on the technology rather than the substance, and even in the case of the digital story with whiz-bang tools, the story is still the substance.

Some social media platforms can encourage image and pretense over the narrative or the storyteller and if you (and the students) know this going in, it’s easier to avoid.

Whether the “story” being told here is literal (e.g., a fictional narrative) or metaphorical (e.g., the story of an app’s development) isn’t as important as first focusing on what you’re trying to say.

2. Think Audience-First

Audience awareness is everything–especially on social media.

Who wants or needs to know something—that’s audience, and that audience needs to be at the forefront of all digital storytelling as you decide what the story is, and how it is going to be expressed. Whether the audience is a set of peers or a global organization, once a message is clear, the story must be crafted with the audience in mind.

This means thinking of where they “are”—their favorite blogs, social media platforms, YouTube channels, music, shopping sites, even their preferred mobile devices and operating system.

And think what they like to do when on those sites—sharing, commenting, starring, pinning—these habits will help decide how you should package your message.

YouTube Logo 756 567

3. Use Models. Lots Of Them

Students love models, as they give them something concrete to see to make their way through nebulous instructions and their own personal abstraction.

Seeing what others are doing—and have done—is a must. And with digital storytelling, this is simple. Any YouTube channel worth its salt has dozens of kinds of stories—some episodic, some formal, some informal, some funny, some serious. The digital era is as much about being seen as it is about information. See what’s already been said and done, and start there.

4. Works Backwards

In any project that’s the least bit comprehensive, backwards-planning can help.

Beginning with the end in mind—a model, for example—allows students to see a clear goal to guide their work. For example, if students are creating a 3-part video log (vlog) that explores their family’s history, then give a clear purpose, format, and topic from which a sequence can be planned—from the vlogs backward.

5. Build-in Choice From The Beginning

Students respond to having voice and choice in their work. Whether it’s an A-B choice (do X or Y), or a simple topic that they can create their own pathway to and through, given students the freedom to follow their curiosity and make important decisions is empowering.

What kind of choices? What kind of media to use, topics to explore, research sources to work from, digital tools to use, audience to create for, platforms to publish to, project management timeline, and many others.

6. Take Chances

Boring stories being told in boring ways make for bored readers, so take chances. Be different. Use sarcasm or anthropomorphism. Consider transmedia. Start at the end. Use flashbacks. Parody a popular song or movie. Use different perspectives. Mash media forms. Use one social media platform’s talents in contrast to another.

Tell the kind of story that hasn’t been told before.

7. Be Mobile

There are many apps that make digital storytelling accessible, if not simple. Strip Designer, iTalk Recorder, Book Creator, Mooklet, iMovie, Creative Book Builder, Toontastic, Voicethread and a thousand others all give students the tools they need to communicate a story.

And the best part of mobile storytelling could be the interaction it allows—in the classroom and beyond. Apps on iPads, smartphones, and even laptops help students move naturally in and out of groups, or from household to household at home in order to interview, record, remix, and save.

So while Vine, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and other platforms may get all the ink, the process–and apps–behind them can help students really tell a story.

8. After considering 1-7, THEN Use Social Media

Once the story has been identified, researched, packaged, and told, publishing is the final—and most exciting—step.

By making the story public, whether to a closed Google+ Community, a public blog, a YouTube channel, or a facebook page, social media is the newspaper equivalent of dropping the student’s story on the front step for others to read. Without this step, the story is little more than an act of compliance in pursuit of a grade. The publishing to social media—or to another site and then shared across social media—is what helps all the work come alive in the 21st century.


A challenge right off the bat will be to help students understand not so much how to tell digital stories as why to tell them.

The most powerful way to address this? Modeling, modeling, and more modeling. See what’s already out there in the digital ether. Let them see what other classrooms or students specifically have done. Let them watch you tell a story—of your childhood, your teaching career, your dreams as a parent. Watch how documentarians tell the stories of soldiers, scientists, athletes, and musicians.

See how biographies turn a person’s life into a story—and then help them tell one of their own to share it with the world.

Image attribution flickr user surlygirl


Internet Safety Cheat Sheet For Digital Media Use In Schools


Internet Safety Cheat Sheet For Digital Media Use In Schools

by TeachThought Staff

Digital media use is exploding in education.

Unfortunately, internet safety is something many teachers–and worse, students-take for granted. While many teachers–and librarians–are concerned with breaking copyright laws, controlling digital media use is often an afterthought. Or worse, so heavily scrutinized that district filters kill any authentic access at all.

But as our libraries gradually become virtual spaces, and our media becomes digital, controlling digital media use is going to become increasingly relevant. Which makes Jen Gordon’s–from the aptly-named–infographic below on netflix, YouTube, Instagram, Google, and Apple hardware so relevant for you. )Unless your district has already taken this burden off your shoulders. In that case, you can wad this one up and toss it.)

You can also take a look at 20 basic rules for digital citizenship as a follow-up. More soon!


The Future Of Learning

9 Rules For Digital Citizenship


9 Rules For Digital Citizenship

by TeachThought Staff

Are there ‘rules’ for digital citizenship? And how are the unique from non-digital, ‘local’ citizenship?

These are the questions the fine folks at ISTE tackled in the follow infographic that seeks to clarify ‘norms’ for citizenship in the digital age. We’ve offered a definition for digital citizenship in the past, and this graphic takes that idea and adds general advice for what this might look like in action. ISTE explains,

“Many of the hallmarks of any good citizen–from being respectful and responsible to doing what’s right–are key elements of digital citizenship as well. But students must learn how to apply these tried and true qualities to the realities of the digital age.” While some of the rules may be a bit over-general (7. A good citizen upholds basic human rights…) or curious in topic (6. A good citizen spends and manages money responsibly…), as practical examples of a vague idea, they work well.

As the graphic indicates, digital citizenship is a specific kind of general citizenship–citizenship extended into digital spaces. A good person using common sense is a good person using common sense online or off, yes? But websites and social media channels are sufficiently unique to offer different challenges (e.g., anonymity) and opportunities (e.g., scale) compared to ‘real life’ that specifically digital thinking is important.

You can check out ISTE’s original post sharing this graphic on their site.

Anything you’d add to the list?

9 Rules For Digital Citizenship

  1. A good citizen advocates for equal human rights for all.
  2. A good citizen treats others courteously and never bullies.
  3. A good citizen does not damage or others’ property or person.
  4. A good citizen communicates clearly, respectfully, and with empathy.
  5. A good citizen actively pursues an education and develops habits for lifelong learning.
  6. A good citizen spends and manages money responsibly.
  7. A good citizen upholds basic human rights of privacy, freedom of speech, etc.
  8. A good citizen protects self and others from harm.
  9. A good citizen proactively promotes their own physical and mental health.


9 Rules For Digital Citizenship

Podcast Teaching Technology

Ep. 15: Teaching And Learning vs. Accountability With @justintarte


Ep. 15: Teaching And Learning vs. Accountability With @justintarte

by Drew Perkins, Director of TeachThought Professional Development

This is episode 15 of the TeachThought Podcast!

In this episode Drew Perkins (Director of Professional Development at TeachThought) talks with Justin Tarte–Director of Teaching and Learning and Accountability at the Union R-XI School District in Union, Missouri–about balancing teaching and learning and accountability, social media, and moving from consumption to creation to contribution.

teach thought PD

Links & Resources Mentioned In This Episode:


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Thank You For Listening!

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Ep. 15: Teaching And Learning vs. Accountability With @justintarte

The Future Of Learning

“We shouldn’t assume people know what digital citizenship is.”

sparkelectronics-citizenship-fi“We shouldn’t assume people know what digital citizenship is.”

by David Ryan Polgar and Marialice B.F.X.

Digital Citizenship is huge.

Or so it seems by the countless articles we read on the topic each week. As plugged-in educators who are putting together the first annual Digital Citizenship Summit, we are swimming in a sea of amazing advice concerning cyberbullying, empathy online, public shaming, tech balance, digital tattoos, and more. To us, it often seems like everyone is well-versed in digital citizenship and everything it entails. They’re not.

Planning the Digital Citizenship Summit has provided us with a great deal of insight into how the digital citizenship community, and education world at large, can better promote the concept of digital citizenship. We have been able to see firsthand the major gap in understanding between digital citizenship evangelists and the general masses, and have discovered some potential ways to decrease the gap.

  1. We can no longer assume students know what digital citizenship is.

It is easy to get caught up in “echo chamber effect” online, where we are constantly surrounded by the topic of digital citizenship and then have our impression reinforced by other equally invested individuals. During our outreach, it has become apparent that the understanding level towards digital citizenship is highly concentrated in academic circles. One of our goals with planning the Digital Citizenship Summit is to increase overall awareness topic: what we have learned is that the community may need to focus more attention on adequately explaining what digital citizenship is.

Why is this a challenge? The very broadness of the term digital citizenship sometimes presents an issue. Terms such as cyberbullying, tech etiquette, or public shaming are self-explanatory in nature. Digital Citizenship, on the other hand, requires a certain level of background. The definition that we have been using is from Mike Ribble/ “Digital Citizenship is the norms of appropriate, responsible tech use.” (Ed note: Here is another definition for digital citizenship.)

The communication breakdown that often occurs revolves around taking that abstract language and turning it into something more concrete. The general public is widely supportive of digital citizenship once they understand what it is, but that requires quick, concrete examples that can be visualized and appreciated.

The popularity surrounding Monica Lewinsky’s recent TED talk offers an illustration for the potential of digital citizenship. Everything she is discussing deals with “appropriate, responsible tech use.” The more that we can connect those issues with digital citizenship, the more the general public will understand its very significance.

  1. There is an incredibly passionate community waiting to be brought together.

The outpouring of support, advice, and collaboration after we announced the Digital Citizenship Summit has been incredibly heartening. People have seemingly come out of the woodwork. Which begs an important question: why were they in the woodwork?

What we learned is that the the community still operates around a few particular circles (often with an influencer at the center). It is easy to think that you know the entire community when in fact you just know your entire circle. There are a tremendous amount of untapped circles that can offer their voice in shaping the digital citizenship conversation.

Our goal with the Digital Citizenship Summit was to bring together those silos digitally through outreach, along with the #digcit chat (every Wednesday at 7 pm EST), and then physically on October 3rd at the University of Saint Joseph (West Hartford, CT).

There should also be ways to build upon best practices. By and large, the digital citizenship community is highly collaborative and looking to share material. An educator is Florida should be able to build upon the work of an educator in North Dakota. There is a still ways to go towards working in a more collective fashion.

  1. It’s time to bring in other stakeholders.

There are a wide variety of stakeholders who have an important role to play in shaping the conversation around digital citizenship. What we have learned in planning our event is that they are often not in direct contact. How do we bring together educators, parents, students, organizations, and industry? The dialogue between parents and educators, in particular, has been a major source of frustration and dispute around appropriate tech use.

One lesson we have learned is that we can increase the level of understanding amongst stakeholders by doing a better job communicating the value of digital citizenship with more approachable language. We also see a need to have the different groups come together in the same location. There will be massively different opinions, but we should embrace the diversity of thought as we shape the conversation.

Lastly, we have learned that there is still a significant need to bring together educators and industry. A common criticism of tech companies is that they often push out their products without adequately considering the societal impact. The digital citizenship community could offer a great deal of insight and advice towards what safe, savvy, and ethical tech use entails. Mr. Zuckerberg, tear down that digital wall.

Digital Citizenship really is huge. What we’ve noticed from our struggles and successes so far with the Digital Citizenship Summit is that with increased clarity and collaboration it will only get bigger.

“We shouldn’t assume people know what digital citizenship is.”; adapted image attribution flickr user sparkfunelectronics

The Future Of Learning

Exploring A Teen’s Digital Footprint In 6 Clicks Or Less

dangers-of-social-media-for-teensThe Dangers Of Social Media: Exploring A Teen’s Digital Footprint In 6 Clicks Or Less

by TeachThought Staff

By now, the idea of a digital footprint isn’t new.

Both adults and children alike have been cautioned to constantly be aware of the trail they leave when online. Instagram images, facebook status updates, cyberbullying, web security, credit card information, identity theft, graphic content, password security, and all underscore the existing threat to our physical, digital, financial, and overall “security”–and our collective need for diligence.

RaffertyWeiss Media explains that they “produced (this) video for the National Center for Missing Children about the dangers of social media for teenagers.” It’s pretty obvious they used teens to play the role of their real-world analogs, but the message is clear (and likely a dead horse by this point): there is a danger in divulging private information through social media, and in one way or another almost everything teen’s want to share is personal.

This makes social media a special sort of confluence of risk, trend, danger, and intrigue for those (or an age of “those”) that struggle to see the big picture. The video’s kind of corny–but kind of creepy as well.

The Dangers Of Social Media: Exploring A Teen’s Digital Footprint In 6 Clicks Or Less


The Definition Of Digital Literacy

the-definition-of-digital-literacy-flickering-bradThe Definition Of Digital Literacy

by Terry Heick

When we think of digital literacy, we usually think of research–finding, evaluating, and properly crediting digital sources. The “research” connotation makes sense, as it is the sheer volume of sources and media forms on the “internet” that stand out.

But we are living in a world where the internet is disappearing, replaced by sheer connectivity. Are you “on the internet” when you tweet? Skim through a social reader like Flipboard? Send a text? Mark up a pdf and sync it with the cloud so you can access it later? Are the cloud and the “internet” the same thing?

As the internet dissolves into something more seamless–that no longer requires a clunky web browser to make itself visible–we might adjust our perspectives in parallel.

Take the idea of “literacy,” for example. Literacy can be reduced to the ability to make sense of ideas. This often means reading, but also viewing, observing, writing, creating, designing–each a kind of literacy, and each with nuanced fluencies of their own.

Technology improves literacy only insofar as it improves a learner’s ability to identify, analyze, evaluate and create media. In fact, it remains entirely possible to fill learning spaces with apps, mobility, notifications, charts, fluid social streams, visualized data, and all-out holograms of Greek philosophers teaching them directly, and only improve their familiarity with these forms and their spectacle rather than the ideas and people behind them.

Literacy implies a fuller understanding and a rounder knowledge. A literate person is aware of multiple information sources, the pros and cons of media forms, and the value and credibility of information. A literate person can process diverse data sources, and suggest macro relevance and micro application of seemingly disparate ideas.

The Definition Of Digital Literacy

Cornell University offers a definition that works, but seems a bit limited, and dated as well: “Digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.”

This isn’t wrong so much as it focuses too much on technology and “the internet.” Literacy can’t be about the forms unless we’re talking about form literacy. Digital tools exist for access–finding information. Then finding better information. Socializing thinking. Connecting and contributing to digital communities you care about.

It is also a matter of “literacy” to understand concepts like digital footprints and identity. This reflects the overlap between digital literacy and digital citizenship, much in the same way there is overlap between traditional literacy and citizenship.

To settle on a definition then, here’s one that reflects the depth and breadth of the concept without getting overly wordy or complex:

Digital literacy is the ability to interpret and design nuanced communication across fluid digital forms.”

The Definition Of Digital Literacy; adapted image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad


Social Media Stalking Is A Thing

dangers-of-social-mediaSocial Media Stalking Is A Thing

We all love to share our lives via social media.

What we eat. Who we love. Where we are. What we’re doing there. When we’ll be home. What we’re feeling.

This has consequences. Creepers and stalkers, for example.

Comedian Jack Vale takes it from here (though there is some bleeped out language, so it may not be appropriate to show students in the classroom).

Social Media Stalking Is A Thing

The Future Of Learning

10 Digital Citizenship Hashtags To Join The Conversation


As we’ve theorized before, we could consider the definition of digital citizenship as “The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.”

One very natural and accessible way to see that kind of thinking in action is twitter.

In contrast to relatively closed social media platforms like facebook or Google+, where you’re more or less confined to your chosen network, twitter users are exposed to the thinking, responses, dialogue, and general interactions of a variety of people.

When you choose to respond to a tweet, you automatically become part of a larger conversation–you see other responses, and everyone else that responds after you can see your response as well. That doesn’t mean they’ll read it or care, nor will you necessarily read other responds and respond in kind to them. But the way twitter works automatically makes interactions not just social, but public (and there’s a difference).

The use of #hashtags also changes things. By clicking on a #hashtag, you can watch every comment, respond, tweet, and RT from every single twitter user whether you follow them or not–and in real-time.

Further you can follow how that topic is trending–or even more advanced analytics–to really, truly see “what everyone is talking about” (on twitter anyway)–which is what happened here during the Super Bowl.

This openness and easy mass-communication between strangers, along the natural aggregation and curation of messages, makes twitter a wonderful proving grounds for digital citizenship. (Another possibility? Closed forum-like platforms like reddit.)

Below are 10 #hashtags that you can follow to not just practice digital citizenship, but follow it for content, ideas, and resources as well, and ultimately join the conversation yourself. Oh–and show your own digital citizenship by letting us know in the comments section what we missed.

Also, we’ve added these to our larger list on our Hashtags for Teachers guide.

10 Digital Citizenship Hashtags To Join The Conversation

  1. #digitalcitizenship
  2. #edtech
  3. #edtechchat
  4. #privacy
  5. #21stedchat
  6. #digcit
  7. #parenting
  8. #ettipad
  9. #internetsafety
  10. #cyberbullying

10 Digital Citizenship Hashtags To Join The Conversation

The Future Of Learning

The ABCs Of Digital Citizenship

abcs-of-digital-citizenshipThe ABCs of Digital Citizenship 

by TeachThought Staff

In thinking recently of all of the different strands of digital citizenship–human, legal, media-based, technological, and so on–it occurred to me that citizenship online was really not much different than citizenship in person.

That is, it’s complicated.

Usually conversations around digital citizenship are limited to its most visible parts–cyberbullying, identity theft, drama, etc. But as the list below shows, digital citizenship is about mass human interaction and socialization of almost everything. That makes it a comprehensive topic too easily squeezed down into a simple 4 or 5-letter acronym or phrase.

Below is a kind of brainstorm of many of the components of digital citizenship, framed in an alpha blocks format. I used bold font for those that focused on actions of the students, while the other terms are there for context.

Big ideas include membership, self-awareness, and permanence. Let me know in the comments section what else we can add.

26 Bits & Pieces Of Digital Citizenship 

  1. Access, Actuate, Anonymous, Accumulate, Addiction, Ambiguity, Awareness
  2. Behavior, Broadband, Balance, Blogging
  3. Cite, Contribute, Credit, Community, Courtesy, Creative Commons, Connect, Curate, Curiosity, Click
  4. Distraction, Disagree, Drama, Digital, Data
  5. Ecology, Ethical, Equity
  6. Friendship, Fair Use, Footprint, facebook
  7. Global, Google, Gadget, Gamify
  8. Habits, Honest, #hashtags, Hack, Hate Groups
  9. Introvert, IP address, Identity, Identify
  10. Juvenile, Judgmental, Join
  11. Knowledge, Kindness, Keep
  12. Literacy, Legal, License, Lurking, Log-In
  13. Mutual, Modesty, Membership, Media, Mash, Meme
  14. Network, Node, Navigate, Nigerian Prince
  15. Ourselves, Ownership, Observe, Offend
  16. Propriety, Publish, Purpose, Parenting, Permanent, Perspective, Phishing, Plagiarize, Password
  17. Question, Quora
  18. Respect, Research, Relate, Reddit, Remix
  19. Self-Monitor, Stewardship, Snapchat, Share, Save, Safety, Sarcasm, Superficial, Spam
  20. Time-Management, Tweet, Text, Transparency
  21. Understand, Use
  22. Visible, Value, Voice
  23. Whimsy, Wait, We, Wikipedia
  24. Xtra-certain
  25. Yourself, YouTube, Youth
  26. Zero-tolerance for bullying

The ABCs of Digital Citizenship 

The Future Of Learning

7 Pillars Of Digital Leadership In Education

amnestystudent7 Pillars Of Digital Leadership In Education

by Eric Sheninger, Principal at New Milford High School in New Jersey

As schools change leadership must as well.

With society becoming more and more reliant on technology it is incumbent upon leaders to harness the power of digital technologies in order to create school cultures that are transparent, relevant, meaningful, engaging, and inspiring. In order to set the stage for increasing achievement and to establish a greater sense of community pride for the work being done in our schools, we must begin to change the way we lead. To do this, leaders must understand the origins of fear and misconceptions that often surround the use of technology such as social media and mobile devices.

Once the fears and misconceptions are placed on the table, leaders can begin to establish a vision for the effective use of technology to improve numerous facets of leadership. The challenge for school leaders is why, how, and where to begin. Digital leadership is not about flashy tools, but a strategic mindset that leverages available resources to improve what we do while anticipating the changes needed to cultivate a school culture focused on engagement and achievement. It is a new construct of leadership that grows out of the leader’s symbiotic relationship with technology.

The end result will be sustainable change in programs, instruction, behaviors, and leadership practices with technology as a pivotal element. Digital leadership requires a shift in leadership style from one of mandates, directives, and buy-in to one grounded in empowerment, support, and embracement as keys to sustainable change.

From my work I have identified what I call the Pillars of Digital Leadership. These are the specific areas embedded in the culture of all schools that can be improved or enhanced though the use of available technology, especially social media. They present a framework from which any educator or leader can begin to harness the power of technology to change professional practice and initiate sustainable change. 7-pillars-of-digital-leadership-27 Pillars of Digital Leadership In Education 

Note: Graphic by New Milford HS student Grace Jeon!

1. Communication

Leaders can now provide stakeholders with relevant information in real time through a variety of devices. No longer do static, one-way methods such as newsletters and websites suffice. Important information can be communicated through various free social media tools and simple implementation strategies in order to meet stakeholders where they are in the digital age.

2. Public Relations

If we don’t tell our story, someone else will, and more often than not, another’s version will not be the one we want told. Leaders need to become storytellers-in-chief. We can now form the foundation of a positive public relations platform using free social media tools where we control the content.  By doing so, we create the means by which we share all of the positives associated with our schools and create a much needed level of transparency in an age of negative rhetoric toward education.

3. Branding

Businesses have long understood the value of brand and its impact on current and potential consumers. Leaders can leverage social media tools to create a positive brand presence that emphasizes the positive aspects of school culture, increases community pride, and helps to attract/retain families when looking for a place to send their children to school.

4. Student engagement/learning

We cannot expect to see increases in achievement if students are not learning. Students that are not engaged are not likely to be learning. Leaders need to understand that schools should reflect real life and allow students to apply what they have learned through the use of the tools they are using outside of school.

Digital leaders understand that we must put real-world tools in the hands of students and allow them to create artifacts of learning that demonstrate conceptual mastery. This is an important pedagogical shift as it focuses on enhancing essential skill sets—communication, collaboration, creativity, media literacy, global connectedness, critical thinking, and problem solving – that society demands.

5. Professional growth/development

With the rise of social media, schools no longer have to be silos of information and leaders do not have to feel like they are on isolated islands that lack support and feedback. Leaders can form their own Personal Learning Network (PLN) to meet our diverse learning needs, acquire resources, access knowledge, receive feedback, connect with both experts in the field of education as well as practitioners, and discuss proven strategies to improve teaching, learning, and leadership.

6. Re-envisioning earning spaces and environments

Once leaders understand the pillars and how to use them to initiate sustainable change, the next step is to begin to transform learning spaces and environments that support essential skill sets and are aligned with the real world. Leaders must begin to establish a vision and strategic plan to create an entire school building dedicated to learning in an ever so more digital world. In order to do so, leaders must be knowledgeable of the characteristics and dynamics that embody innovative learning spaces and environments.

7. Opportunity

It is important for leaders to consistently seek out ways to improve existing programs, resources, and professional development. Digital leaders leverage connections made through technology and increase opportunities to make improvements across multiple areas of school culture.


Leaders need to be the catalysts for change and the pillars identified above provide a framework.

Each is critical in its own right to transforming and sustaining a positive school culture. By addressing each of these pillars, leaders can begin changing and transforming their respective schools into ones that prepare learners with essential digital age skills while engaging a variety of stakeholders.  Digital leadership begins with identifying obstacles to change and specific solutions to overcome them in order to transform schools in the digital age.

You can read more about digital leadership in 21st century learning environments in Eric’s new book Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times available from Corwin Press; image attribution flickr user amnestystudent and New Milford HS student Grace Jeon; 7 Pillars Of Digital Leadership In Education

Project-Based Learning

Digital Project-Based Learning: 7 Tools for Student Collaboration

digital-project-based-learningDigital Project-Based Learning: Seven Tools for Student Collaboration

by Rob Sabo

Education today often requires extensive collaboration between students and faculty. Team assignments are an excellent way to improve learning and help students develop the communication tools necessary to thrive in the workplace.

Choosing the right tools for small group collaboration is crucial for facilitating easy communication between small groups of students and teachers — no one benefits from a clunky platform that frustrates students and inhibits smooth peer-to-peer communications.

Tools for Collaboration in Small Groups: What to Consider

There are many different platforms that allow groups of students to collaborate on projects and assignments. When considering what platform works best, faculty should consider the following:

  • How students like to interact with their classmates
  • Methods for providing constructive criticism
  • Tracking time spent in a collaborative setting
  • How students deliver the results of their collaborative efforts

Melissa Loble, associate dean of distance learning at U.C. Irvine, specializes in the selection and utilization of underlying platforms and technologies to deliver online coursework for UCI. Loble says another key aspect of selecting a group collaboration tool is capitalizing on technology that mirrors popular social media platforms.

“Traditional students in the 18- to 25-range already are using a lot of different social technologies, and if you can capitalize on where they already are communicating with each other you can get a lot more participation. It is a great way to get students’ attention.”

Too often, Loble says, educators choose technology that they like. It’s important to consider the needs of students, Loble says. The bottom line: Choose a collaboration tool based on functionality, cost, flexibility and scalability. Student-led planning and collaboration are a huge part of project-based learning. The more intuitive the tool is for students, the better.

Seven Tools for Student Collaboration

1. Basecamp

Basecamp is one of the most widely used collaboration tools and boasts millions of regular users. Students can upload, edit and swap documents and files online, as well as track the project’s schedule and its progression toward completion. Basecamp also provides convenient to-do lists for assignment delegation, time tracking and instant messaging for team members and faculty.

2. Podio

A newer system based on the use of apps, Podio is an emerging force as an online collaboration tool. Students may like the fact that they can create a distinct workspace for projects presented in a familiar Facebook-style interface. Podio allows students to share documents and files with unlimited storage. It also has mobile platform that allows students to keep on top of projects while on the go.

3. Kickoff
This is a Mac-based app that gives students an easy-to-use platform to collaborate in a team setting. Students can track projects using Kickoff’s dashboard feature, create to-do lists with assignment dates, and track the progress of different students’ contributions to the group project. Students also can share files and chat privately or in group meeting rooms.

4. Redbooth

This project-management and collaboration tool could prove beneficial for faculty with multiple collaboration assignments. While not expressly a ‘K-12 teaching tool,’ with Redbooth educators can still create multiple projects and assign teams for different assignments.

Like other tools, Redbooth allows students to create projects, assign tasks for specific team members with due dates, tags, threaded communication, notes, color-coding, and labels. Best of all, perhaps, is the activity alerts that informs student collaborators about completed activities without checking into the task manager.

5. TitanPad

TitanPad is a great choice for students working on term papers or assignments that require a written presentation of their results. Students can create documents and collaborate in real time. TitanPad tracks revisions and accounts for user contributions to a document.

6. Moodle

Moodle, part of the campus-wide Learning Management System at U.C. Irvine, was chosen because of its flexibility and scalability. Embedded inMoodle is a group function that allows students to create groups, share documents and have discussions in asynchronous time with students and faculty.

7. Google Apps for Education

Google is no stranger to the classroom. Between Google Classroom, Google Docs for collaboration and Google Hangouts for small group meetings, Google tools provide countless opportunities for a variety of communication patterns and modalities (text, image, video, etc.)

Deploying Collaboration Tools on Campus

The space for group collaboration tools has gotten much more crowded in recent years. Information technology leaders at smaller private colleges may make the decision to deploy a collaboration tool, while large public universities, such as U.C. Irvine, put out a request for proposals and conduct pilot programs and evaluate the results.

Small pilot programs with one or two classes are a great way to evaluate products, Loble says.

“We pilot a lot of things before we actually make a recommendation to use them. We identify some faculty or classes or both and put a pilot program together to try the technology and gather data and go back and review if it was successful and accomplished our goals. It doesn’t take too much time, and it allows us to be effective with that technology in a small setting before we push it out to a big setting.”

Rob Sabo writes about education technology and is a contributor to several websites, including; Digital Project-Based Learning: 7 Tools for Student Collaboration

The Future Of Learning

20 Basic Rules For Digital Citizenship

The definition of digital citizenship has to do with the quality of behaviors that impact the quality of digital content and communities.

To help clarify what that “quality” can look like, put together the following infographic framed around Dos and Don’ts. While seemingly written for a more general audience than students and educators, the thinking is sound, including “Treat others they way you want to be treated,” “Don’t forget the human behind the screen,” “Listen first, talk later,” and “Use proper grammar.” (Yes, please do.)

Overall it’s a bit basic, but it does take the important step of moving beyond rhetoric to offer concrete tips to realize the idea.

20 Basic Rules For Digital Citizenship



The Definition Of Global Learning



Definitely not a high-interest topic.

For every person reading this quick preview, probably 18 more skimmed right past, busy trying to survive right here, right now. This makes sense.

Even when it does get attention, it is often bursting with rhetoric and emotion—discussed in tones of enthusiasm (we should do it—the students deserve it!) and grey stereotypes (we Skyped with a classroom in Peru last week—if that’s not global, I don’t know what is).

In high-stakes testing environments prevalent in many formal learning institutions, the focus is on standards and standard-mastery. “Globalization” is a haughty kind of “pie in the sky” idea thought about only when watching one of the “Shift Happens” videos on YouTube, or daydreaming on the drive home from a challenging day in the classroom where there is time to honestly reflect on—in solitude—the kind of education teachers can only dream they could provide students.

Now over a decade into the 21st century, there is tremendous pressure for education to “globalize.” What this means exactly isn’t universally agreed upon.


For education, globalization is the natural macro consequence of meaningful micro placement.

Globalizing a curriculum isn’t (initially) what it might seem. To globalize, start small—with the self.

Now over a decade into the 21st century, there is tremendous pressure for education to “globalize.” What this means exactly isn’t universally agreed upon. In major world markets, the business world globalized decades ago, expanding beyond domestic markets in pursuit of more diverse audiences and stronger profits.

And while major players in business continue to experiment and find their way in markets whose culture and buying practices diverge from those domestic, the “field” of education has been slow to follow suit.

This is made all the more strange by the relationship between education and economic systems. If one goal of education is to prepare a “work force,” the more parallel the system of education is with the work force, the less “waste” there might be. While industrialism, commercialism, religion, and technology all reach out across political and geographical borders, education lags awkwardly behind. The most startling reality here might be the jarring power of juxtaposition: stakeholders in education everywhere struggle for change—meaningful, sustained movement in a new direction–yet within education overall, there is relatively little progress compared to tangent fields, including science, technology, entertainment, and business.

For education, somewhere there is a tether, likely rooted in sentimentality and disconnection. The learning process has become so culturally detached from the communities it is designed to serve that families are no longer sure what quality education looks like, resulting in blind trust of an education system that struggles itself to plan, measure, and remediate learning, all the while families stand aside unsure of their role.

With this uncertainty in mind, families hesitate to demand quality because they’re not quite sure what they’re asking for. But perhaps in the inertia of public education there is serendipity. Should any mediocre industry, initiative, or entity seek to expose itself to the world? Or could there be growth and improvement in such an act?

And most importantly, what does it mean to “globalize”—and what does it require?

Defining Global Learning
Globalization is less a singular initiative than it is the effect of a thousand initiatives, many of which are currently under-developed. When defining a “global curriculum,” one issue that must be confronted is the issue of perspective: Do we all have the same definition of “global,” and do we understand the word “curriculum” on common ground?

In brief, let’s agree that in this context, “global” is a word that describes anything that is truly worldwide in its awareness, interdependence, and application. Right away, the scale of any such endeavor should appear, at best, intimidating, and, at worst, impossible with any degree of intimacy. Beyond that which is geologic and atmospheric, few things can truly maintain wholeness while being “global.” Global implies a scale that’s not just ambitious and comprehensive, but truly inclusive by definition. Things can’t be “partially global” any more than the lights can be partially turned on.

So if “global” is fully interdependent and inclusive, what about the curriculum part? For the purpose of this piece, we’ll say that a curriculum is intentionally designed of learning content and experiences. It may be more or less planned and scripted, created backwards from a sort of curriculum map into units, lessons and activities, or far more open as “learning pathways,”  each a different style of curriculum. To clarify, learning standards such as the Common Core are not curriculum, but are rather ingredients with which you can create your own.

So what then does a “global curriculum” require and imply? And how do we get there from here?

The term “global” tends towards business, marketing, and technological connotation, which is always dangerous. The ambition of business leaders, technology inventors, and scientists alike shows less respect for the practical than the possible. While exciting in theory, it flaunts a hubris that should serve as a warning for fields with much more to lose than money or shareholders. The process of globalization is simply a complete illumination of the planet through the interdependent illumination of the local.

Here “local” is simply the opposite of “global,” referencing individuals (“selfs”), families, neighborhoods, communities, and so on in a ripple outward, in a spectrum ranging from available intimate knowledge to mere vague familiarity to outright reductionism in the form of categories, demographics, and “policies.” The clinical result of sheer math, as quantity increases and scope widens, familiarity is increasingly challenged. This reduces intimacy—with people, histories, legacies, and ideas. As intimacy is reduced, so is understanding. The self, no matter branding, connectivity, and revenue sources, is first entirely local—i.e., non-global.

And in this case, local doesn’t mean neighborhoods and cities, but is first even more primal: self-knowledge in a world perhaps distracted with image, illusion, and external motivation–one that promotes discovery over understanding, and visibility over wisdom.

A takeaway then could be to grasp a new kind of respect for the scale of truly global learning so that the appropriate kind of thinking to responsibly pursue global learning can be done.

Featured image attribution flickr userusdepartmentforinternationaldevelopment


The Definition Of Sexting

The Definition Of Sexting

by TeachThought Staff

This is the first in a 3-part series on sexting and technology. These will be quick-hitting posts to sketch out the problem and begin to address it.

The first will look at the definition of sexting and the scale of the problem, the second tomorrow evening will take a look at Snapchat, an app that has found a niche as a sexting facilitator, while the third will look at how you can begin to respond as an educator.


Sexting is what it sounds like it might be–sending sexually-implicit or explicit text message. These are usually multimedia texts–pictures of the sender in various stages of undress. 

But they don’t necessarily have to be nude images. Sexually implicit text-only messages also qualify. In fact, sexting could be defined as the process of sending any communication that relays sexual desire or intent.

These are usually sent from a mobile device, whether through the phone’s stock messaging system, or apps like Snapchat. This makes them easy to take, send, and delete while minimizing “getting caught.”

Whether they are a natural product of sexual curiosity or further proof that the sky is falling depends on your perspective, but it’s hard to dispute the danger a teen (or adult) faces with naked pictures of themselves floating around. When you involve schools into the equation, the situation gets even more delicate–and dangerous.

Sexting Statistics

According to the following infographic, 25% of all men have sent a “sext” to someone who wasn’t a partner, compared to 16% of women.

16% of presumably those same men have sent sexts to family members by accident, compared to 8% of women.

48% of women have sent a sext to a partner, compared to only 45% of men.

While these figures describe sexting patterns of adults, for teens it’s not much different.

According to National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 40% of teen boys and 37% of teen girls admit to sending sexually implicit text messages. The actual statistics vary from study to study, but the message is clear: somewhere approaching half of teens are likely to send or receive “sext messages.”

Tomorrow, we’ll look at one of the main facilitators of this trend, and Tuesday we’ll finish up with a look at how you can address it in your school or classroom–both directly and indirectly.


Sexting & Technology: The Definition Of Sexting


4 Principles Of Digital Literacy


4 Principles Of Digital Literacy

by Terry Heick


Literacy is the ability to make sense of something, often generalized as the ability to read and write. In many ways, reading is reading, media is media, but in the same way a play places unique comprehension demands on a reader compared to a poem or a letter, so do digital media compared to classic media forms. In the 21st century, new literacies are emerging and digital media forms allow communication to be more nuanced than ever before.

Digital Literacy

Digital Literacy is about being able to make sense of digital media. This occurs through meaningful and sustainable consumption and curation patterns that improve an individuals potential to contribute to an authentic community. This includes the ability to analyze, prioritize, and act upon the countless digital media 21st century citizens encounter on a daily basis.

4 Principles Of Digital Literacy

1. Comprehension

The first principle of digital literacy is simply comprehension–the ability to extract implicit and explicit ideas from a media.

2. Interdependence

The second principle of digital literacy is interdependence–how one media form connects with another, whether potentially, metaphorically, ideally, or literally. Little media is created with the purpose of isolation, and publishing is easier than ever before. Due to the sheer abundance of media, it is necessary that media forms not simply co-exist, but supplement one another.

3. Social Factors

Sharing is no longer just a method of personal identity or distribution, but rather can create messages of its own. Who shares what to whom through what channels can not only determine the long-term success of the media, but can create organic ecosystems of sourcing, sharing, storing, and ultimately repackaging media.

4. Curation

Speaking of storing, overt storage of favored content through platforms such as pinterest, pearltrees, pocket and others is one method of “save to read later.” But more subtly, when a video is collected in a YouTube channel, a poem ends up in a blog post, or an infographic is pinned to pinterest or stored on a learnist boardthat is also a kind of literacy as well–the ability to understand the value of information, and keep it in a way that makes it accessible and useful long-term.

Elegant curation should resist data overload and other signs of “digital hoarding,” while also providing the potential for social curation–working together to find, collect, and organize great information.


The Definition, Means, And Effects Of Cyberbullying

The Definition, Means, And Effects Of Cyberbullying

Bullying is bullying, and there has been significant progress in this incredibly important issue in the last ten years.

In many of the classrooms we’ve been in over the last two or three years, bullying has shifted from the teacher vernacular to that of the students. It is not uncommon at all to see students observe, identify, socialize, and move to correct bullying on their own without input from teachers.

But obviously things aren’t perfect. While the traditional image of bullying involves a large angry boy shaking a young timid boy upside down by his ankles until his lunch money falls out, the growth of technology has increased the nuance of human connection. By a simple “like” or “share” button, a message can be sent, oftentimes chock full of implicitness, but lacking in direct “attacks.” Such is the life of digital and social media.

The following infographic reviews the definition of cyberbullying, and includes the most common technology-based avenues for it to occur, and the harmful effects of it all.



Ready To Grow? 20 Ways To Improve Your Professional Learning Network

Annual Meeting of the New Champions Dalian 2009

Networking is a prime form of 21st century learning.  The world is much smaller thanks to technology.  Learning is transforming into a globally collaborative enterprise.  Take for example scientists; professional networks allow the scientific community to share discoveries much faster.

Just this month, a tech news article showcased how Harvard scientists are considering that “sharing discoveries is more efficient and honorable than patenting them.”  This idea embodies the true spirit of a successful professional learning network: collaboration for its own sake.

As educators, we aim to be connected to advance our craft.  On another level, we hope to teach students to use networks to prepare for them for a changing job market.  But what is the best way to approach PLNs?

Learning networks are based on the theory of connectivism, or learning from diverse social webs.  Connectivism implies that learning relies on communicating ideas with others.  PLNs facilitate learning through meaningful interactions.  The advantages of PLNs today are two-fold.  In one way, they can improve classroom teaching and help develop new projects. On the other hand, they act as a form of communal intelligence that changes societal perceptions.

What are some ways to grow your PLN and improve the quality of your interactions?  As you will see, there are diverse ways to build your network and many new management tools.   Here are some simple tips:

1. Keep the spirit of collaboration as your driving force.

PLNs are all about working together.  Be reciprocal and resourceful.  Don’t think about what you have to gain, first think about what you have to give. Why?  Because it’s the right thing to do.  By buying into the process and sharing useful information, your PLN grows naturally.  Collaboration creates a common ground and allows others to see your interests.  Genuine interest builds a solid, authentic network.  Try to see the big picture of how your ideas can change the world.  Social responsibility is the best kind of motivation for establishing a PLN.

2. Join an online community.  

Nings are online rings of people with similar interests. Sharing ideas and contacting people for direct feedback is more effective in a community setting.   Communities such as, Classroom 2.0  and The Educator’s PLN provide a meaningful circle of experts.  They provide professional development resources, such as online events, and are a great place to start networking.  Plus, using MightybellEdmodo, or Ning you can create your own virtual space to share pictures, documents, calendars, or projects.

3. Join a Meetup group.  

Meetups are common thread interest groups that meet in the real world.  The groups can also extend in social networks.  For instance, social studies teachers in your district or city might create a group to share teaching ideas.  Meetups take online networks and bring them into the real world.  And if you can’t meet online try using a cyberspace, like Google+ HangOut, SecondLife, or Skype. Some university academics even have virtual labs on SecondLife.

4. Become a beacon of light.  

PLNs rely on open sharing of information.  So if you know something, share it!  It’s best to start with a specific interest and then grow into other topics as time goes on. Become an expert in your niche by researching current trends.  This will draw a larger following on your network, because you can provide a novel source of information.  You might write a blog, start a Scoopit page to repost interesting articles, share a free tool, or create a Youtube video.  Cater to your strengths and use what’s comfortable for you.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

After all, PLNs are all about learning.  But don’t ask questions that you can easily research yourself.  Try simple searches on TED talks, Wikis, blogs, or news articles before posting a question. Try to be specific and think of how a question might generate interest from others.  For example, you may want to refer to an article or research study when asking a question.  Be specific!  This will generate the best answers.

6. Be an active participant.  Brain power is the main asset of a PLN.  Spend some time to identify a specific cause and communicate it on your profile.  Let your knowledge of a specific cause help grow your PLN.  Keep up to date with your niche.  Stay relevant.  Try to post at least once a week.

7. Remember to be polite and acknowledge contributions to the rightful owner.

Show common respect for the people in your network.  This may seem like common sense, but can be a pitfall.  It took me some time to learn “web etiquette” over the years, but it has helped me tremendously.   Send thank you notes, acknowledgements, and use your true voice.  Not only does it make the other person’s day, but it will help you gain more meaningful connections.

8. Designate a professional and personal account.  

I keep my social life on Facebook and my professional life on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.  There can be some crossover, but it’s best to keep it minimal so things are easy to find.  Certain groups will appreciate different types of content.  Your Facebook friends might find your baby’s stories adorable, but your Twitter followers might not appreciate extra messages cluttering their inbox.  Do this in ways that are comfortable to you.  You might designate accounts for each sphere of your life.

9. Create a landing page.

It may be a good idea to consolidate all of your accounts on a landing page.  A webpage or personal blog will make it easier for people to find you.  It will also create a space where you can showcase the different projects you are working on.

10. Engage newbies.  

It is best to include a mix of newbies, peers, and experts.  Having this type of diversity in knowledge allows you to increase your mentoring skills.  It keeps with the essence of collaboration.  One blogger in Australia provided a great visual and commentary on how varying levels of expertise are vital to developing a meaningful PLN.  He describes how he learned in a PLN learning MOOC that the 3’Rs have been replaced by the 3 C’s Collaborate, Communicate, and Create.  PLNs create new projects through the power of active collaboration.

11. Curate!

Use DiigoEvernotePocket, or Delicious to bookmark links.  You can access them anywhere and on any device.  For example, Diigo is like creating your own personal library.  Diigo is the preferred tool for educators.It allows you to highlight paragraphs and clip pictures while you are reading.

  • You can bookmark a page in a “virtual” library or online archive, even PDFs or videos.  You can add your own tags to search for information later.
  • Your entire school and class can add Diigo as a group, so that you can share resources.  For example, a chemistry class might share a digital periodic table, online lessons, or practice assignments.  Here is a great video about how to set up Diigo specifically for education.  They have specific accounts for educators to create a shared school library.

12. Use a reader to subscribe to blogs.

Google reader allows you to manage multiple subscriptions to blogs. This allows easier access to new research.  You can also use an application like Scribd or Yahoo News Social to publically share what you read with others.

13. Establish your own platform.

Consider establishing a blog site on WordPress or  A blog provides a worldwide stage to share your views of education. You can spread your passion and find kindred spirits.  From there, you can develop lasting connections and plan new projects.  Fellow bloggers will appreciate the time you put into creating meaningful materials. Your ideas can be then be re-shared as a link. Many teachers keep class webpage or use applications such as PB works to share ideas.

14. Share on Twitter first. 

Twitter reigns king, for now.  Anything can change with technology, but Twitter is the most commonly used tool among academics for expanding PLNs.  LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ also provide access to different types of networks. Later, you can use other tools to further expand and manage your network, such as Skype and Google tools. Many new platforms are emerging so stay current by reading tech or social media news on a site such as, Mashable.

15. Consider your role. 

The article “Individual Learning” sheds some light on learning roles. Consider your learning style when designing a specific approach to your PLN:Activist-Learning by doing, such as writing a blog.

  • Reflector- Learn by reviewing situations, such as posting opinions to articles.
  • Theorist-Prefer to learn by researching information and data, such as by creating a model.
  • Pragmatist-Apply learning to real situations, such as by creating a project that uses PLNs in the classroom.
  • According to Wikipedia, PLN roles can include, “searcher, assemblator, designer of data, innovator of subject matter, and researcher”.

16. Aggregate resources together.

Applications like FlipToast and HootSuite allow you to merge all of your social media accounts into one interface. You may want to play around with different types of portals until you find the one that is right for you. Map out an organized plan for using your PLN. There is a great chart of resources for mapping out your PLN plan on this blog.

17. Take a free course to learn about PLNs. 

MOOCs are Massive Online Open Courses that are free to the public.  For instance, this course complete with handouts shows you how to establish a PLN.  You learn actively by taking small steps to create your PLN, such as creating a blog, twitter account, and content.

18. Stay current with new tools. 

For example, try Pearltrees. This is one of my favorite new tools for PLNs.  Pearltrees is basically a visual organizer for your links.  Pearls are collaborative and public.  You can add pearls as you browse and share them with others on Twitter and Facebook.  Customize your experience.   There are many specific tools on different applications that allow you to customize and organize your PLN to fit your own needs.  Chrome and Windows 8 have several free applications that are worth trying.

19. Simplify logins.

You can speed up the log in process by installing a Password management application.  To further simply your PLN, use Google to keep a shared document drive, email, chat, and Google+ networking in one place.

20. Establish a classroom learning network. 

Share your own expertise with other educators on a website or blog.  Create a class website or teach students how to create their own PLN. You might want to design a classroom project that relies on using one aspect of PLNs.  Doing so allows you to learn new ways to use PLNs. A YouTube video, The Networked Student, does an excellent job of explaining how a student might engage in a PLN. Teach students how to establish a PLN in small steps.  For instance, they might use Google scholar to research a paper or share ideas on Google Hangouts.

PLNs are a powerful change agent. And in today’s world an online professional learning network is indispensable.  Technology allows easy access to an unparalleled network of professional resources. Growing your network can lead to opportunities for professional growth and help change the future of education.

This is a cross-post from; image attribution flickr user worldeconomicforum