Tag Archives: digital citizenship

Banding Together for THINK

Congratulations to the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council for their efforts in partnering with a variety of community partners, including the Waterloo Region District School Board and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board to produce the  T.H.I.N.K.  campaign to promote positive uses of social media within our community for Bullying and Prevention Week (Nov. 18-22, 2013)


Related Resources

CTV KW News video clip

Blog post and resource links by WRDSB Technology Support Teacher  Susan Watt:  Think before you …

Follow along on Twitter:   #THINK  and  #bandtogether


Digital Citizenship: A Parent Perspective

Within the context of  Connected Educator’s  month, October 21-25 is digital citizenship week. After recording an earlier Google Hangout session on the topic of  Digital Citizenship  with staff, I thought it would be interesting to record a second hangout to gain a parent perspective on this topic.

Earlier today, I was joined by  Susan Parr, a parent from our school board community and  Chris Vollum, a social media consultant and parent to share some conversation on this topic.  If the notions of  online safety, openness, academic honesty, integrity and social success capture your interest, then this conversation is for you.

Many thanks to Susan and Chris for sharing their time and interest in supporting this important topic.  Until next time …


Digital Citizenship “Pathway”

Today I am sharing a framework from WRDSB to consider digital citizenship and literacies in the K12 environment.



Digital Citizenship discussion ‘on air’

Tonight I had the chance to connect with 3 co-workers to try a Google Hangout on Air live session.  Our topic of choice was digital citizenship. Check out our introductory conversation.

While we planned some questions to keep us focused, the discussion was free flow and from the heart.  I hope this is the first of many recorded discussions on this important topic.  Special thanks to Heidi Hobson,  Susan Watt  and  Jeff Brown.


WRDSB Student Voice

Each year, I look forward to opportunities to interact with our WRDSB students and have conversation about technology, learning and Board plans etc.  My recent meeting with our student trustee group yielded some fantastic discussion, so I thought I would share a few highlights in this forum.

The trustee group submitted some questions ahead of time to create a framework for our discussion.  They were interested to know more about:

  • differentiated access to resources
  • the need for wifi login
  • software licensing
  • ITS department projects for this year and Board directions

After addressing their questions, we opened up the floor to additional questions from the student trustees.  This lead to a wonderful discussion which brought together a number of interconnected ideas.  I was very impressed that students were well aware of the need to manage their privacy online. Through our discussion we extended this to managing one’s online identity and reputation.  I encouraged the students to see how ‘Googlable’ they were. Would their online reputation precede them?  As a self reflection, do they choose to use social media, communication and collaboration tools for positive purposes? – and what might they change in their typical actions? After all, “the net does not forget”.  Digital citizenship is something that must be lived, a way of being. I also took the time to talk about the expectations defined in the WRDSB Responsible Use Procedure.

In the final portion of the meeting, I was given the opportunity to ask the student trustee group questions. I chose to ask one question: Given the changes that have been achieved over the last 4 years ( access to more resources including social media and collaboration tools, wifi in all classrooms, BYOD, improved internet bandwidth etc. ), what has been the impact to their learning?
The students were very frank and open with their responses.  I have captured a few highlights in the list below:
  • extremely positive feedback on the establishment and expansion of the Futures Forum Project
  • learning and engagement is improved through blogging and collaborating online
  • like to be able to use their phones in class – looking up information in the context of a discussion is beneficial
  • excellent class projects through the use of wikis
  • technology affords many forums for peer help
  • social media tools keep students connected and focused, engagement is up
  • web based teacher resources very helpful (blogs, wikis etc.)
  • the 4 any’s: learning anytime, anywhere, anyone and anything
  • easier to work and organize electronically, paper just does not work well
  • online connections (community) is very beneficial
  • use of Facebook groups and web (fan) pages very helpful – easy to connect, collaborate and stay up to date
  • the type of environment we have created helps prepare us (students) for post secondary learning
What Next:
  • continue to promote teachers as risk takers with technology
  • continue to build more capacity for technology use (reduce fears in using technology)
  • encourage teachers to learn from students too
Finally, I was impressed that a number of the students present were aware of the learning strategy of the “flipped classroom”. My sense is that this approach was seen as beneficial in many learning situations. It was hoped the WRDSB teachers were open to exploring the benefits of this approach.
I extend my thanks to the WRDSB student trustee group for such a great conversation about technology enabled learning. I look forward to my next session with group.

A Surprise Conversation

You never know when an interesting social media conversation will break out.

Last Sunday, our woodwind quintet, the Venturi Winds, performed a concert at the Wellington County Museum & Archives building. Following the program we decided to go out for a light dinner along with a few family members who attended the event.

Seated at the table and previewing menus, the unsuspecting conversation started. One person, who operates their own business, begins to tell the story of needing to terminate an employee for continually spending company time on their personal cell phone. They turn to me and ask “What you you do in the schools? Do you allow cell phones in the classroom?”

I provide some background on our digital citizenship program indicating that it is important to:

  • recognize that value of mobile devices to support certain aspects of curriculum delivery
  • teach appropriate, ethical and safe use for a particular situation
  • and teach self regulation

Many of our schools have designated some ‘cell phone safe’ zones where students may use their phones. Classroom use is generally at the discretion of the teacher. Everyone could see the value in our approach, and that providing some real world context to these experiences was of value.

The conversation deepens. “What about laptops? What about Facebook? (etc.)? Are these allowed in the classroom? These are distractions.”

I provide some additional information about our program and approach. True enough, these could be distractions, but mobile technology and social media tools provide:

  • ways to interact with the world in real time
  • access to information
  • collaboration opportunities
  • authentic audience opportunities and experiences to students

I went on to explain the use of blogs, wikis, ning, Google docs, Facebook etc. and how the use of these tools can support important curriculum goals such as non fiction writing (e.g. journals, poetry, peer review of projects …). The conversation went on to talk about the role of the teacher shifting from the ‘sage on the stage’ to the learning coach who facilitates inquiry and project based learning.

All in all, a great conversation that stretched out over most of the meal time.  The conversation did eventually drift to other topics. Finally  a question came up about time zones and daylight savings time.

My solution: “If you had a smart phone, you could look that up right now.” – and I did. What a great segue to the power of access to information via mobile devices. Our time together concluded with a good laugh from the group.

~ Mark


A Visit to @ecmackenzie’s classroom

One of the highlights of this week was my visit to @ecmackenzie ‘s classroom. Students in Ms. MacKenzie’s class has been working on producing book trailer videos over the last few weeks. The new twist in this year’s project is that students are sharing their video via a Facebook group. With the group structure, students can enjoy and peer comment and receive teacher feedback.

The Facebook group was created by Ms. MacKenzie. She sent a group invite to herself to establish the first member of the group. Once this was done, students were invited to search for the group and request access. Using this methodology, suitable professional boundaries are maintained with regard to the teacher/student online environment.

As an honourary member of their Facebook group, I have enjoyed watching the videos as the students completed their projects and posted their work. I was impressed by a number of aspects of this project.

  • Dialogue and comments within the group showed a solid level of respect among the participants
  • It was clear that there had been discussions about Digital Citizenship
  • Based on viewing the movie trailers, students had received excellent instruction regarding use of copyright free images and source siting
  • I was very impressed by the level of creativity demonstrated in the student projects
  • There is potential to share work to parents using this model

I really enjoyed meeting the students face to face after watching their work. Following the video viewing session, I talked to the students about some of our key ITS initiatives to support learning – our dual boot Macintosh environment, wireless hotspots with bring your own device options, and social media and collaboration tools available.

I appreciated the student feedback regarding our progress on these initiatives. Their comments included:

  • Facebook access was very valuable for sharing and collaborating (class project, homework, receiving school information)
  • From their view, Facebook provides a one stop shopping approach to obtaining school related information
  • Access to web based resources & internet searching is a critical part of researching – wifi access allows more effective use of class time
  • Facebook is a familiar tool. Using it eliminates the need to use (and learn) extra tools that may not be required
  • Bring your own device wifi takes advantage of personal technology that contain one’s collection of information and frees up school computing resources for others to use
  • Expansion of wireless access for greater classroom coverage would be a significant advantage

The students also raised the issue to electronic textbooks. Clearly, they see a shift to e-books as a good thing. Key discussion ideas identified were:

  • easy portability (many books on a single device)
  • makes it easy to have all your resources with you (ebooks, internet access, bookmarks etc.)
  • no need for ebook to be more expense, business models should make this an affordable transition

Summary: an excellent teacher + motivated and respectful class + innovative project = first rate educational experience

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in your project and visit your classroom.

~ Mark

Off to camp?

I was listening to the CBC Metro Morning radio broadcast one day last week on the way into work. The topic that morning was ‘Camping & Technology’ – that is, sending kids of to summer camp for a week or two. Although I did not hear the entire show, it seemed that the discussion centred around a couple of main points.

  1. Should the kids have technology at a camp session?
  2. Needs/expectations: parent & student/child perspectives

I found the discussion quite interesting. The camp facilitators were focused on delivering face to face activities, which in turn fostered relationship & team building and problem solving skills among the children. There is no argument from me regarding the need for this.  The camp facilitators had taken the stance – keep the technology (cell phones, smart phones, mp3 players (iPods etc.)) out of the camp environment. On the other side of the coin, a number of the parents had expressed concern about this because removing the technology also removed their ability to communicate with their child/children – something they valued and wanted. Now, hold this thought.

In a sense, there are two polarized approaches here: keep the technology out because we don’t want to deal with it or allow it. This example of the  polarization around the use of handheld technology is really no different than the situation in many schools around the globe: keep it out because we don’t want to deal with it v.s. bring it, and use it as part of the learning process where appropriate.

It seems to me that the answer is not in maintaining these polarized view points, but looking at things from a Digital Citizenship and Character Development point of view. Embrace the challenge of finding that middle ground that allows the use of technology in suitable ways, whether it is camp or school. The Digital Citizenship approach allows for some discussion around appropriate use, meaning context and timing etc.

Back to the camp debate – From my point of view, the ‘solution’ seems obvious. Allow the students to bring the technology and have that digital citizenship discussion around appropriate use and expectations for the camp environment. A child should be able to:

  • have a great camp experience which includes the F2F focus
  • maintain contract with their parents at certain times of the day (not in an interruptive manner)
  • share the experience online with family and friends

I hope a useful compromise is achieved. Happy camping.

~ Mark

Digital Citizenship Symposium

Tuesday March 30th, 2010 was a special day – the day our Board held their first Character Development/Digital Citizenship Symposium. The ballroom at St. George’s Hall was buzzing with energy. The room was filled with administrators, teachers and students. We were about to share a day focused on Digital Citizenship in the context of Character Development and ultimately moving the agenda forward.

Showcasing our Digital Citizenship poster, in the case a giant one by the registration desk.

The Character Development – Digital Citizenship Program

8:00-8:30 Registration

8:30-8:45 Welcome

8:45 -10:00 Keynote Speaker  – Jesse Brown

10:00 – 10:15 Break

10:15 – 11:00 Morning: Session A – 21st Century Tools of Learning

  • Option 1 Social Media – Networking Tools
  • Option 2 Equity of Access – Adaptive Technologies
  • Option 3 Digital Literacy and e-learning
  • Option 4 Tools for Student Engagement
  • Option 5 Multimedia Projects – Original Work

11:00 – 11:15 Break

11:15 – 12:00 Morning: Session B – Classroom Applications

  • Option 1 Digital Citizenship in the Classroom
  • Option 2 Bitstrips – Literacy
  • Option 3 Creating a Collaborative Online Community
  • Option 4 Digital Citizenship in the Classroom -Ministry Project
  • Option 5 Building Community – Blogging

12:00 – 1:00 Lunch

1:00 – 1:45  Session C ” Your Digital Footprint “ – Panel Discussion

1:45 – 2:00 Break

2:00 – 2:45 Afternoon : Session D ” Where do we go from here?”

  • Positive Impact of Technology – The New A.U.P.

2:45 -3:00 Day Program – Closing

Evening Session for Parents and Community members

6:45 – 7:00 Welcome

7:00 – 8:00 Keynote – Jesse Brown

Jesse Brown, owner of Bitstrips for Schools, recently licensed for use in Ontario schools and host of TVO podcast “Search Engine” kicked off the day with a keynote presentation that tackled three questions:

  • Do cell phones belong in classrooms?
  • Do teachers belong on Facebook?
  • Does the internet make us stupid?

After exploring the ins and outs of these questions, the day moved to the break out sessions. I attended Steve Rensink’s session on using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom and Susan Watt’s session on Digital Citizenship in the Classroom. Both sessions were well done and provided opportunities for all to extend their learning.

The afternoon’s activities started with a panel discussion, which I had the privilege of hosting. The panelists included two secondary school students, a teacher, an administrator and a business representative from Opentext.  The discussion started by allowing each panelist to present their views about how integrity, respect and social responsibility (3 of our 8 key character attributes) relate to Digital Citizenship. Picking up on key points made early in the discussion, I also explored two additional points with the panel:

  • Explain the important differences when interacting in a face to face situation vs. an online environment, and
  • With the ease of copying, sharing and distributing content, give your views on academic honesty.

The final session of the day was prepared by Harry Niezen, Ron Millar and Anita Brooks-Kirkland, our ICT consultants. Seating arrangements for this session grouped students with students, teachers with teachers and administrators with administrators to explore a series of questions focusing on the future of our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). Each table had a recorder so that the ideas and view points expressed could be captured, reviewed and considered in the rewrite of our AUP which will begin as a followup to this event.

All in all this was a successful event. The day closed with Susan Watt relating some classroom experiences from her point of view as our Technology Support Teacher and me announcing the launch of our new student email system and additional access to social media tools (including Facebook as of September) and our intent to embed their use in curriculum delivery. I think the highlight of the day for me was seeing all attendees – students, staff and administrators seated side by side and learning together. I feel fortunate to have been a part of this important WRDSB event. Congratulations to the event organizing team!!!

Additional Resources

Did you know? (4.0)


The day as captured on Twitter

Social Media policy framework reference

Event Wiki

~ Mark

Social Media ID Probe

Question of the day: How willingly do social network users give up personal data?

This very question has been explored by Sophos UK. Sophos conducted testing in 2007 and 2009. The results may surprise you.

Given the efforts put into promoting and raising the awareness levels of Digital Citizenship, online safety and privacy, I would have anticipated a trend of improvement to be reflected in the results. However, this was not the case. I wonder if a big factor in this result stems from the continuing growth in the numbers of social network users. The Facebook blog currently reports over 300 million users. Just a few months ago the number was in the 250 million range. TwitDir, a Twitter directory currently shows 5.3 million users with an aggressive growth rate. Some estimates place the Twitter growth rate at 1382%. The reality is that this means there are high numbers of relatively inexperienced social networkers in the mix at any given point in time who may not be as savvy as more experienced online users.

Some highlights from the testing showed that:

  • 41 – 46% of users probed blindly accepted a friend request
  • one of the ‘blind friends’ was in fact a plastic duck
  • younger users tend to give out information more freely

Actual results of the probe are summarized in the chart below.

I would encourage you to read the report and recommendations for online safety at Sophos.com. From my point of view, the results indicate that there is considerable work to do in the area of Digital Citizenship and online safety.

~ Mark