Digital Literacy

I spend time teaching middle school students about Digital Literacy and Citizenship.  I also help them navigate the digital world around them.   I hope they learn to be nice people in real life and when they are online.  And I hope they make smart choices about their Digital Footprint that will stay with them as they continue their journey into adulthood!


Professional and Personal Growth

This year of working on my Certificate in Digital Leadership from the University of Rhode Island has been one of professional and personal growth for me.

Honestly, when I finished my BA in 1991 I knew I would not want to get my masters anytime soon.  Ten years later the opportunity to take a year off from the classroom an work on my Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies was too good to pass up. This masters was exactly what I wanted and needed at the time.  Interdisciplinary Studies let me work on a variety of subjects from math to astronomy and to focus on Environmental Studies. After I finished that, I was pretty sure I would continue with local courses and professional development to finish out my teaching career.   Fast forward fifteen years I changed from a classroom science and reading teacher to an instructional technology resource teacher position.   And I was cruising along.  In hindsight I can honestly say I was getting a little complacent.  I am so glad I found the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy last year.   It was again, exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

The Fauquier Excellence in Education Committee and Beth Lynn deserve a big shout-out for pushing me toward this goal.  Every time I have seen Beth the last few years, she asked me why I had not applied for an Excellence grant.  I have always been  huge supporter of this grant! I promised her I would look for a learning experience I might want to do. A simple google search for summer learning opportunities in digital literacy led me to the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island.  The Excellence grant allowed me to attend the SIDL during the summer of 2017. I have received this grant 3 times in 27 years and can say that each time it has re-energized my teaching and learning.   It has also allowed me to travel to Oregon, Hawaii, and Rhode Island.  Amazing!

After experiencing the SIDL  last summer, I committed to working on the Certificate in Digital Literacy this year.  These learning experiences have contributed such an incredibly rewarding and enriching journey.

Here are some things I learned this year while I was working on this certificate, in no particular order.

  • I learned how to create a screencast. I  also learned to not mind the sound of my recorded voice in those screencasts.
  • I learned how to use Twitter and Tweetdeck for learning. I also used these tools to share my own learning process and to share what my learners are doing everyday in my building.
  • I learned about many apps and tools to help students learn. And also that the apps and tools are constantly changing so we have to teach resilience and adaptability.
  • I learned that a little bit of anxiety and urgency is a good thing in the learning process.
  • I learned that the brain processes digital text differently and that I still need to print things that I really need to comprehend.

One thing that really stands out for me this year is that everyone learns from everyone!  Everyone on the #digiuri hashtag has been my teacher this year.  There is no way to quantify the magnitude of learning alongside you all for the last year.   These leaders have modeled the way for me as I follow you all on this blazing path.  And you have encouraged me to find my own path.  I have also continued to learn from my colleagues and students on a local level.  The best way to learn is to say to a middle schooler, “I need help with this app.” There is no doubt in my mind they will always come through. I have learned from my 3 year old granddaughter and 4 year old nephew about swiping up and Youtubers.  My Youtube inbox is a now a combination of digital learning, tractors, and surprise videos. The co- learners that were with me taking the graduate courses this year deserve a special shout-out.  You all rock! Believe me when I say, I can’t wait to continue learning from you all in the future.

I have to say that besides learning about digital literacy and authorship this year,  I learned the most about myself along this journey. I learned about my learning and leadership styles.  The content I learned about digital literacy and digital authorship was interesting challenging. But this process was really about me!

This process forced me to revisit those feelings of anxiety, worry, and inadequacy you have when you are learning something new.  Especially when, the new things you are learning are hard for you. Reminding me how this feels helps me to know how my students and adult learners feel about learning something new.   I hope this empathy can stay with me as I challenge the learners in my community to learn new things.

This process reminded me that I am a leader in my school and in my learning community.  I can be a quiet introverted leader supporting and cheerleading for my learners. I can also be an outspoken extroverted leader ready to express my opinions and take action on my goals.

This process reminded me that my personal goals can and should be celebrated as I continue this journey.   I will always have tasks, jobs, and projects that are part of my job but I cannot lose sight of the goals I have for myself and my learning community.

Mostly I was reminded that learning is still and will always be about relationships.   The digital stuff is just stuff and we can and should use it for learning, but no matter what, the relationships you build are the most important part of learning.  One advantage of digital learning is that our learning communities and relationships can stretch beyond our local communities quickly!

I have learned that we can and should champion and support our learning communities locally and globally.  Sharing what you learn is almost as important as the learning process. Sharing my products and learning process online might where I learned the most about myself.  My voice matters and this program has given be more confidence in myself to share my voice locally and on social media.

I also realized that learning more about yourself is really the best outcome of all learning!


Reflections on my Final Project

I created a professional development course for teachers on using Social Media in the classroom.  The course will eventually be hosted in Blackboard Learn for all Fauquier County teachers. Our teachers must earn 2 credits per year or Opt Out credit.  This professional development course will be worth 0.5 credits. With online courses we expect teachers to spend roughly 2½ hours which is equivalent of a live Opt Out for our teachers. The hours also convert to state certification credits as hours.

The lessons for teachers are scaffolded to build their skills in using social media in their classrooms.  This course is designed to help the novice that wants to use social media with students. While ultimately, I want to encourage digital authorship for teacher and for teachers to encourage students to publish their own work online, the lessons start with the very basics of social media usage.  For years educators were told social media was off limits and we need to start with a discussion on how to get started. In fact one of the very first lessons includes two short screencasts on creating accounts on social media.

The short assignments involve watching screencasts, reading online articles and websites, participating in discussion, and uploading assignments that walk teachers through using social media in the classroom.  I utilized many of the tools we have used this semester to create my short lessons. I did have to learn how to screencast from my iPhone to demonstrate toggling between accounts. I also learned that the way I hold my phone also covers the microphone used for recording and I had to re-record that short video multiple times!

Throughout the process teachers will utilize tools they should be familiar with in an unfamiliar way.  They use Blackboard Learn as a teacher with their classes. For this course they will in the system as students and using the tools as students use them.  I hope this usage encourages teachers to use more of the assignment and discussion tools that are available in our learning management system. This course also introduces the teachers to Flipgrid as students.  Utilizing the tool as students is an opportunity to introduce teacher to this awesome tool for reflection.

Using the Blackboard Learn platform will allow these lessons to be chunked in manageable pieces using the adaptive release tools that require assignments to be uploaded or checked off in some way before the person can progress.  This process allows for both feedback and accountability as the teachers are working independently.

One of the earliest discussions is about safety and security for students.  I want to encourage discussion between teachers about using social media with different age students.  Publishing work for younger students will look very different than supporting publishing work for older students.   I also want teachers to consider how their own use of social media has and should evolve. I think it is important to realize that there really is no one right answer.  Every person must decide what is right for themselves.  I do share in the screencasts and Flipgrid reflections on my own process and journey in using social media.

The ultimate goal is to encourage actual digital authorship.  I hope in working through the process of using social media and other tools, teachers feel empowered to help their students find a voice on social media.   Each teacher that completes the course will create a project that promotes digital authorship from their students. In younger grades this might be the teacher sharing the students work.  By high school, I hope this scaffolds to students publishing on their own. No matter what, we will have a curated collection of projects that will be visible to other teachers that take the course.  I hope this collection grows with participation and becomes a resource to all the teachers that attend the course.

Pecha Kucha

Here’s a preview of a professional development course I have been working on for my final project for

This course will eventually be offered to Fauquier County educators.

***Full disclosure:  This is my first attempt at a Pecha Kucha.  I had to google what a Pecha Kucha is.  I also had to google how to make one.  To save you from having to look it up, a Pecha Kucha is presentation of 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each.    Enjoy!

Is Everything a Remix? Reflections

Check out this video.


I agree with Ferguson on this one.  Everything is a remix to some extent.  Quick google searches prove that movies, books, ideas are based on common themes and existing stories.   I found list after list of things based on Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Disney….the lists go on.  Is anything new? Or is it just new to me.  There is something comforting and familiar about the same stories with a different twist.  There is also always the hope and joy of finding a new story.   When we studied the Pixar lesson plans, two important components of Disney and Pixar movies were character and world. And even if those worlds or characters are reused the stories are still compelling.  No matter what I still love watching and re-watching those stories!

Just as creative ideas build on creative ideas, I think science builds on science. And often ONE person get credit for the big aha moment when in fact it was lots and lots of science and scientist that contributed to the idea.  I think creative ideas are the same.  While all scientific or research papers have pages and pages of citations and sources sometimes people do not get credit at all for major discoveries.  A noted example is Rosalind Franklin, who took the photographs that James Watson and Francis Crick used to determine the structure of DNA. Watson, Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. Until recently, Franklin was rarely recognized at all.   She passed away from cancer before the Nobel Prize was awarded and since it cannot be awarded posthumously, she was not recognized. Even had she been alive, there was prejudice at the time against women. Even though omissions happen, science normally has the structure built in for peer review and crediting research.  I see a connection between science and the creative process and the ways copyright, attribution, and plagiarism are all defined. In all of this there is a human component in interpretation.  And we are so lucky that creative ideas can build on ideas and concepts before to create even bigger and better creative ideas.

The conflict between authors and consumers is definitely an interesting and relevant issue for educators.  I fall into the “Afraid to use items for fear of violating copyright.” camp. I also had not considered the difference between attribution and plagiarism.  I want to learn more so I can move forward without fear and help educators move beyond.  I foresee creating professional development on copyright law and fair use in the future.  There is a definite need for this type of information being accessible to educators. I think the best format for this is hybrid course with an in person component and an online component for sharing and discussion to continue.



Establishing a Digital Identity


I work with middle schoolers.  The first thing many 6th graders actually remember me saying to them is, “Don’t take naked pictures.”   I’d like to be a fly on the wall at home when their parents ask what they learned at school that day!   I want to be that voice in their head as they begin to navigate the digital world and establish their digital identity.  And I hope they establish their own voice in their head as they continue to live and thrive in a digital world.

Digital Civic Engagement

I used a basic Google search, Pinterest, and asked the Civics teachers in my building to find resources for digital civic engagement.  My two Civics teachers were by far the best source of information for this topic!  I should have started with them.  The resources I think has the most potential is the iCivics website.   Both of my teachers have used iCivics with their seventh graders.   The website has interactive games that allow the students to participate in different games that relate to civic responsibilities, government structure, running for office, immigrant issues, and international relationships.  My teachers did say that they only use 2 or 3 of the games.  Their feeling is that students get bored over using the same style games for different topics.  These offer some variety but would be too much if the students did a game for every topic.   This website and organization are supported by a wide range of experts including several Supreme Court Justices, lawyers, educators, and industry experts.The website also has resources and lesson plans by topic and units.   They also support have units that focus on primary documents, including the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution.  The other resource I really like are the webquests on the iCivics website.  These lessons are basically focused inquiry designed to lead students to find information on web and with classroom resources.  While this website is really curriculum based, I think it can lead to discussions in the classroom about taking action especially on a local level.  There is also an opportunity in the games to earn points that can be converted to a donation to a community projects.  This may be a motivation for some students but I think more importantly these can lead to discussions in the classroom.


Other Resources