Cutting the CRAP Out of Design

I have enjoyed reading the articles this week. They remind me of the effort and work that I put in to make the websites that I make for teachers and students the best that I can with the tools. I know that better tools could produce better sites, but with the tools that I have, I do what I can. I have always taken when I like and what I didn’t like from other websites to guide designs. Unconsciously following the CRAP model mentioned in this article. Now that I have read about the CRAP model I realize that what I liked about websites is that they used the CRAP design principles.

I have also been using many of the ideas shared in this article about visual hierarchy. Since I consider myself a visual learner I guess it makes sense that I have been using these without training. Reading the articles has reinforced the techniques that I have been using are correct. They also make me realize how awesome the new Google Sites is. Many of the design features mentioned in both the CRAP and visual hierarchy articles are not only easy to do in the new Google Sites, but almost impossible not to do. This is why I have found using the new Google Sites with students is actually super easy to use.

I also enjoyed reading about the eye tracking studies. While it may seem that they are not directly connected to the CRAP and visual hierarchy design article I think that they are. I wrote a blog post back in 2015 about how my left eye being more dominant affects the way that I visually layout my personal computer. If it affects my layout of my computer, then it must also affect the way that I layout a website or the way that other people layout websites. That is another element to consider.

I have also been working with my school on a new digital system that is web-based and one of the things that we found was that the initial designs were very much not user-friendly. But then after some revamps mainly based on both of the points in these articles the user interface is beginning to take a more pleasing shape.

For this week we were asked to take the skills that we learned in reading these articles, and “fix a resource that we had designed for working with students. I choose to improve a page in my Student Tech page.

The page started out like:

And it ended like:

I mainly worked on improving the elements of CRAP except for repetition. I worked on improving the contrast, alignment, and proximity. I think that my original design was based on what I was able to do with Sites at the time I created it. But now with new updates, there are more options which allowed for more design changes. I am looking forward to the 4th quarter changes that are coming for sites so that I can continue to improve my resources.


I’ve Got the Power!

After watching videos this week, I feel a buzz. The buzz comes from seeing young students who have started exploiting technology in their lives. The first video was about Martha Payne and her journey to find her voice. When you watch the video which is a fantastic example of a child taking action. You may initially think “Wow, that is a that is a student who chose to take action. Look how strong and forward thinking she is.” What I realized as I watch the video is that I don’t believe that she chose to write on her blog, Never Seconds, because she felt that she had a strong, empowered voice but instead that she chose to write a blog because she didn’t feel that she had a strong, empowered voice. Through writing, she was brave enough to say things that she was not brave enough to say out loud. I think that the blog and being behind the computer gave her courage and a voice that she may never have found without technology. I realized this when I watched the video. It is obvious that Martha, while being very confident and committed to her cause online, does not have that confidence in front of an audience. This is maybe not what you would expect from a child who has had so much success online. But I think that it is exactly the type of thing that technology can do for some students.

I have seen on more than one occasion students who are nearly silent in class, blow me away with something that they have written. While writing doesn’t necessarily involve technology. Technology does allow a writing piece to be shared in ways that were nearly impossible before. Think of how much of a boost Martha got the first time she received a comment or realized that her blog was actually being read, that she has a voice.

I was in a class today with a group of students who were video recording a message to their parents on the SeeSaw ePortfolios. The teacher asked them to introduce their ePortfolio to their parents. One student asked, “What if my parents already know what it is?”. We suggested this would then be a good time for you to tell your parents how you would like them to interact with your Portfolio. Tell them what kind of feedback you want them to give you. One student went on to say: “Mom and dad, last year you liked my posts but this year could you make more comments.” What a great way for kids to communicate about their education with their parents. By having the students tell their parents what they need they are showing that they understand the benefit of good feedback.

After watching Martha’s video I was still stuck on what to write for this blog post but then I saw Scott McLeod’s TEDx Talk. The beginning of his talk is about Martha but then he makes the statement that there thousands of Martha’s who are using technology at home to learn, create and grow but, that in school, technology use is less about learning, creating and growing. That to get to the point at school where we are allowing students to achieve similar to what they can at home we have to get past our FEAR. We have to stop locking down and blocking out the world.

“We do everything we can to get technology into the hands of our kids, then we do everything we can to prevent them from using it. If we want to have more kids like these, we have to get rid of our fear, our need for control and focus more on Empowerment. If we want more of this to happen in school, then we have to give them something meaningful to work on, give them powerful devices and access and get out of their way and let them be amazing.”

I completely agree, especially since this is essentially my job. My job is to empower students, teachers, teacher assistants, secretaries, administrators, and staff to use technology and be amazing. If I do my job well then I should be able to get out of their way. I should be able to let them get on with it. That goes for training the teachers, guiding the students and working with colleagues.

When I think back on the examples of student action that I save for reference, most include tech and most include home/independent learning with tech. Imagine what students would do at school if we gave them the venue to do it. Like Richard who saved his village from Lion attacks with blinking lights. Or Kylie Simonds who wanted to help cancer patients be more mobile during treatments. Or Kelvin Doe who turned garbage into a radio station. Or William Gadoury who had a theory about Mayan temples that led to the rediscover of unknown temples with the help of Google Maps.

Another example of empowering students comes from System Administrator Aram Schalm, who encourages the students that notify him of weak spots in the school’s system, to help him find ways to close the gaps. He has empowered these students so much that they are coming to him with management suggestions, like when a student suggested that the news Widget on the iPads might occasionally show images that would be shocking to the younger students (ex: War photos). Aram says:

I love it when Students help finetune tech to make improvements! I always make sure that they get credited for this too; from sending out Staff-emails to make Teachers aware, or even during Staff-meetings and also during conference-type gatherings.

I first heard of Aram’s style of empowerment when we chatted at one of those conferences. I have found that many of my ideas for empowering students come from the buzz that I get when going to one of these conferences!

Kids are amazingly diverse and creative, imagine what they could do if got out of their way and let them be AMAZING.

This is what I love about technology, with a little bit of information and playing with keywords in Google Search you can find what you are looking for!


“Martha Payne: ‘Changing the World, One School Dinner at a Time.’” Vimeo,,  8 Sept. 2017,

TEDxTalks. “Extracurricular Empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Sept. 2013,

Myinstants. “Instant i Got The Power.” Myinstants, 2010,

Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship as defined by the ISTE Student Standards

In thinking about Digital Citizenship this week I was first struck with Ryan’s statement in his post Being a Citizen

“I knew they had heard all the scare tactics before about online safety, and I wanted the workshop to be built around conversation among them, not by me.”

I think that scaring students into acting the way we want, is not an effective way to teach them how we want them to deal with situations. The reason is that you have only told them what not to do. You have not taught them to think about the situation that they are faced with and critically consider their options.

That being said I am not for, free for all let kids figure it out for themselves types of things. I am suggesting that we need to have an approach to teaching students about Digital Citizenship that gives them both some guidelines and strategies to deal with situations. Guidelines or rules like the ones this mother gave her child about their new iPhone are a starting point. What I like about these “rules” are that they address responsibility and habit formation. This parent has thought about how to create good behaviors in her child’s interactions with their phone. So that those behaviors will become habits which will hopefully lead to that child using their phone effectively as a tool in their life.

I think it is also hugely important for students to have a voice. When teaching Digital Citizenship in classrooms I always try very hard to have the students in the class tell me what they should protect, respect and how they should deal with a situation. My Digital Citizenship lessons are a place where I ask students, “What should we do if … happens.” or “How would you deal with … situation?” Students like the girls mentioned in this article about social media rules are generally good about having an idea of what rule would be appropriate.

What I try to do is ask them why that rule and why for that activity. What would happen if the situation changed? How would you deal with it? These questions challenge them to think about more than the initial idea that popped into their head about how to deal with a situation. We all know that you are rarely faced with situations that unfold exactly like an example that you were give unfolded. We have to teach students to think through those situations and decide the best way to handle it. That is a skill that they can use in their lives to manage their Digital Footprint and practice Digital Citizenship.

For example, our school had an Acceptable Use policy for the elementary school that was no student friendly. Because of that, it needed to be revamped. Due to a need to have something that was up and running quickly I started with the Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Pledge.

For this lesson, I go into a classroom and write the word Digital Citizenship up on the board. I then start by asking the class how they would define those word. Sometimes they know but mostly they are unclear how to answer so we break it down even smaller and I say to them ‘What does digital mean?’ and ‘What does Citizenship mean?’ Luckily because I teach in an international school citizenship is usually not something that takes longer to explain.

IMG_20170904_103731From there I ask them what they think it means to be a good citizen in the digital world. When they begin giving their ideas I begin writing them down. Once we end up with a pretty large list, I ask them to start grouping things together. Then we generally get it down to four or five short statements that cover most suggestions from our list. This is the point that I bring out the Digital Citizenship Pledge. I show it to them and I make connections between their statements and what is on the pledge. Nearly always they are able to suggest n

early all of the statements on the pledge. The thing that I like about the pledge is that it has space to add your own, so we look back and their suggestions and we add to the pledge before we sign it.

Since our Acceptable Use policy was needing a revamp, last year I took all of the Digital Citizenship Pledges from my School and I took all of the suggestions that the students had written in on their Pledges. From that, the AAS Student Pledge came about. Our goal was positive simple language that could be understood by all ages. The other thing that we realized is that by doing this we had pretty much written the same things that come up when classes write their Essential Agreements.

Our future goal is to stop mentioning our Digital pledge as something that is different and separate from the behavior that we generally ask the students to demonstrate but instead embeds the behaviors of the digital world into their everyday normal behaviors.









Privacy - Course 2 Blog Post (1)

I created this infographic based on my reading of the article The Myth of Online Predators. In the article, privacy specialist David Finkelhor makes the point that when you actually look at the statistics for crimes against children online they are in line with crimes against children offline. While that is not something that is acceptable. It does make me think back to my post last week. The shock factor strikes again.

This is one of the parts about privacy that I have always struggled with teaching students. I have for years used the CEOP Think U Know website to help with teaching children safe online. The video I like using the best is the 8-10-year-old Jigsaw (see below). What I like is that the video is just scary enough to make them think but not so scary that they are troubled by it. But every time I did teach this lesson there were students who struggled with the seriousness of this lesson. I think that while we have to teach children to be safe we also need to reassure them that we are working hard to keep them that way and that this is not an everyday occurrence. This is a hard balance to have. I think it is probably similar to teaching kids stranger danger.

What is super important to teach students in our schools is that their information is in their control. They need to be very aware of what to control and what let out. That being said that isn’t even a clear black and white line. I often do a lesson about private vs public information with students when I put up a Venn diagram on the board and ask them what they think should go where. There are only a few things that are always on the private side. The rest get fuzzy when you talk about context. So, for example, addresses always come up. I ask them where it should go and they usually answer with private. Then I say “What about if you’re ordering from Dominos? I don’t know about you but I want my pizza to arrive at my house, not my neighbors!” Then they all go, oh yeah. So we take the opportunity to talk about if you do need to give an address. They usually decide that you should ask your parents if that is a safe site to give your address. I think it is super important to give students lots of scenarios that question their understandings. This allows them to think through their reasoning and if a situation were to arise that had not been discussed they will be better equipped to think it through.

This leads to another article I read titled Job Hunting Take a Closer Look at Your Facebook Page this article talks about the importance of considering things you post on social media. Facebook seems to be the default but really all social media is the same. Employers, Universities, and even potential friends are now spending time looking through social media to find out information about the people that they come in contact with. If you are a teacher who is posting nothing but pictures of yourself out drinking on weeknights, or a student who makes comments about how little effort you are putting into your school work, there may be someone out there who is reading that and making life altering decisions about you. Just think back to the Northwestern University LaCross White House Visit. The social media ramifications of that team could have lead to losses of scholarships. That could have been devastating for those students.

Students will always come back with, but it’s my private life and how I live it, is my business. And the answer to that is that as long as you keep it off of social media you are absolutely right, but once you put it on social media it is no longer private. It might be well hidden but it is never 100% private. So teaching students what is acceptable and safe goes from protecting their dates of births to protecting their and their friend’s images to future universities and employers. If we start teaching them these things when they are young they will develop habits that they will hopefully keep through the teen years when they are less likely to listen to what the adults say!

Websites where images for Infographic were taken from:”

Digital Footprint, Something to stress over or just another dust collector on a shelf?

Is a Digital Footprint is it becoming like an old photo album gathering dust on a shelf? I had this thought when the question came up because I thought, “Should a Digital Footprint something that we should be stressing over or should we know it is there like an old picture album”. I think that in this day and age we have to be proactive but we have to work on making sure that we don’t become reactive about our Digital Footprint.

I see many people who are so stressed about their security that they have little or no Digital Footprint, yet they want to get into social media. When they ask for help and give me their criteria about how they want the security setup, I have to tell them that it isn’t possible to be on social media the way they want. They ask why and I generally answer with “because it’s SOCIAL media”. If everything is private then there isn’t very much social about it.

I think that a lot of this fear comes from articles like the one I read by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras published in Time Magazine. This article is only based on partial data and limited information. Dr. Kardaras equates digital device addiction to heroin addiction because MRI scans show that the same parts of the brain are active. Well since the brain is only so big and the parts that control things like doing something that satisfies you are in only a few locations, I am sure that they are all firing the same way.

This fear mongering is why I created my Powtown video. I face this every day with teachers, parents, administrators and sometimes students. It is the part of my job that I like the least. But it is part of the job that I try to spend time educating myself on, in preparation for the times when it comes up. Like reading this article from The Verge in rebuttal to Dr. Kardaras. This fear mongering also keeps people from separating out social media use from technology use. They are NOT one and the same.

Back to the question for this week, Should educators have a digital footprint, my answer is absolutely, YES. If you don’t have one of any kind, how can you teach kids about it effectively? You don’t have to have a large, extensive footprint, but no or very little digital footprint is going to be hard to relate to.

As a Tech leader in my school, I may have one of the largest digital footprints, but that doesn’t mean I don’t monitor and control it to the best of my ability. While I might be “techie” I am not interested in everyone knowing every small detail about everything that I do!

Having balance in your technology use is a part of Digital Citizenship. I like the visual in this article titled 8 Digital Life Skills all Children Need. (Though I was hesitant to reference the visual because it was difficult for me to find the visual, since it isn’t cited! until I reread the article and found the link to the DQ Institute.) I like their visual because it references balance many times and in many different ways. It talks about managing your time, managing your digital footprint, and being aware of privacy. I do like how this one is worded but I wonder with all of the resources from ISTE, Google and Common Sense Media, if there will ever be one that leads the way. I think they are all versions of the same ideas but do so many resources saying the same thing or help get the word out?

The Great Unknown: Copyright Rules



This week’s assignment asks that we look at our old blog posts for copyright issues. This is something that I have tried my best to be very aware of since reading the article Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued for Using Pics on Your Blog – My Story. I am not sure when I read this article but it did make me rethink the use of images that I use in my blog posts. I have tried very hard since reading this to use images that come from Wikipedia when I found out that they are free to use (mostly). The biggest headache I find with copyright law is that it is so difficult to understand and use because there are so many different rules. Much like English grammar, I guess!!

I am also aware of infringement issues, as I have an acquaintance with an extremely famous mother, who often faces copyright and trademark infringement issues. I have even been out and about and spotted some of these myself.

So, when I looked back on my blog post I found two uncited images. I realized that while I used “free to use” images I did not cite them as I should have. I will have to go back and find the citations and update the images. I also know that many times teachers do not take the time to do this in presentations that they make to students in their classrooms. It is generally because they do not take the time to do it, but what are we teaching our students if we do not take the time to cite our sources?

Because of this, I have tried over the years to either use more of my own images or to cite my sources, I will continue to try to take the time to do that. I do use the Google Image search tools to help find images with the correct usage rights but I have to remember to go the extra step and grab the URL at least to cite the source. I know that there is more to citing sources than just posting the URL but just like the maze of Copyright rules, citations are as if not more complicated!

One of the things that I would like to share with teachers is @langwitches Copyright Flowchart. This gives teachers a visual that they can use to start the conversation with students. I do worry though that when I suggest visuals to teachers they print them, laminate them, say something like “look, students, here are our rules for copyright, be sure to read them.”, then hang them in their room and never refer to them again, but expect students to follow them as law. Or they expect me as the Tech Integrationist to come in, teach a lesson on it and then the students to remember everything I said and practice that daily without any reinforcement from the teacher themselves.

Another question proposed for this week is how do we teach Copyright rules in countries where they are not respected. When I lived in Thailand copyright infringement was a common occurrence, even encouraged many times as a way to save money.I taught grade 1 students in Thailand so this was not as much of an issue, but I think that it is important for international schools to respect these rules and not teach students by doing. Many students in international schools will go on to jobs that copyright will play a role in. It may only play a small role but it may also play a huge role and if the students in the schools were not asked to respect copyright then it will be much more difficult for them to respect it as adults. It won’t be just about images or text at this point but also about ideas and designs.

One of the ways that I do this has been to change my language. A few years ago I realized that part of the reason that the elementary students I was teaching didn’t respect copyrights is because their teachers always told them “don’t plagiarize”. While that is the right word, the students didn’t really understand what it meant. So I started using the word “stealing”. I would ask the students to raise their hands if they had ever stolen anything from the internet, to which one maybe two students would raise their hands. Then I would reword it and say how many of you have done an image search and then saved an image from a search and used it in a project. To which they all raise their hands and I would say, “Well, you have all stolen from the internet.” Their mouths would drop open and they would argue, “No we haven’t.” See because they understand “stealing”. They don’t understand “plagiarizing”. Since I started using this work with elementary students I have noticed that they do make more of an effort to cite sources in their work and take pride in doing it.


Google Sites Website Creation in G4 – Coetail Course 1 Final Project

Unit Planner

I started out writing this unit based on an idea I had for our Grade 4 Sharing the Planet unit. This is a unit that the Grade 4 team had always written a nonfiction report as their writing integration. This year we looked at ways to develop that into something integrated technology beyond the student’s typing their report. Since I had been using Google Sites this year to build several websites, I suggested using a Google Site as the product of the writing unit that integrated with this unit of inquiry. I choose to develop what we started this year into a more fully realized unit for my final unit. One of the reasons is that am developing this lesson further is because I can see it being used with several grade levels and several units. I wanted to make sure that I had a fully developed lesson so that when I discuss integration with teachers I can give them a fuller understanding of what is involved in a project of this nature.

One of the struggles that I find is that teachers severely underestimate the amount of time needed to complete a unit like this. Also, they don’t always see all of the ways they can incorporate elements of this unit into what they already do within the course of a unit. Writing it out in this much detail allows me to show them all of these things.

Most of the changes that I made were to break down the lessons in more detail to include both the integrationist role and the class teacher role. I also had to think of the unit differently than I was originally thinking since my role is fully integrated into the classroom, I had originally started to plan this unit using the original Unit of Inquiry. Then, I realized that I needed to think of it as a sub unit within the full unit. Once I realized that I began to see more clearly where I needed to develop the unit and how to explain the steps and elements necessary to complete it.

One element that could make this unit link into the coursework that we have done so far would be to try to create a global collaboration with another school/class doing a similar unit for their Sharing the Planet theme. We could work together on the websites with each class member having different pages/roles with the creation of the website. This would also allow students to do peer editing with peers that may have different perspectives. Because of this, I have already contacted a fellow teacher about this possibility. So hopefully that is something that we can develop further.

The biggest influence I think has been making sure that the unit plan clearly identifies both the integrationist and class teacher’s roles so that they have a clear understanding of the plan. It also gives me a good understanding of the amount of time it takes to teach the lesson effectively as well as the level of commitment that the teachers will need to give to make sure that the unit is a success. In my unit plan, I tried to make the roles and time needed clear for everyone to understand. I also tried to show areas where elements of this unit can be integrated into lessons and time commitments that the teacher will have already set aside for the unit of inquiry. All of this is part of the planning process which is what I talked about in my third week.

In the end, I hope to see student created websites that show many different ways for information to be shared with others. I hope that students will take some of their time and think of interesting ways to add to their website. I look forward to seeing what creative ways they can share their knowledge with others in interesting ways. I would like to see a progression of student’s skills in regards to their research skills in their ability to find information, site information and rewording of the information for their audience. As well as a progression of their skills with using the G Suite apps. Especially students who were using them heavily in previous years.

I look forward to sharing this unit plan and to teaching it in the next school year!