Helping or Enabling?

This week we were asked to select a Creative Common image to use in one of the classes that we teach. Well, that proved difficult as I am in the middle of MAP testing so I am not working with students very much this week. So I thought about when I have used images recently and when I would in the future and I decided to take a look at the logos that I have created for our ES Portal (in-house only, sorry no link).

I was asked to create a place that could become a one-stop shop for teachers. In doing so I used the skills mentioned in last week’s blog post Cut the CRAP out of Design without really understanding what I was doing. I also did something else that I didn’t realize until I was given this assignment that I had in fact used Creative Common images.

When I double checked my images, I realized that the way that I found the images to use was to use the search option inside of Google Drawings, which only searches for images labeled for commercial reuse with modification.

But when I decided to double check these images by following the link that appears at the bottom of the search windows. I found out that the images I used were, in fact, Creative Commons licensed so that I did, in fact, find correct images to use. Go Me!

It is always nice to find out that you actually did the correct thing with images.

I know that because of working in a school we have a sort of “get out of jail free” card. If you would like to read about Fair Use here on the US Copyright Law Page. Here is an excerpt of the Fair Use page. One thing I did learn from trying to read the Copyright Law is that Educational Institutions are not exempt carte blanche. For example, they are not allowed to profit from the use of someone’s copyrighted material.

Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes:  Courts look at how the party claiming fair use is using the copyrighted work, and are more likely to find that nonprofit educational and noncommercial uses are fair.  This does not mean, however, that all nonprofit education and noncommercial uses are fair and all commercial uses are not fair; instead, courts will balance the purpose and character of the use against the other factors below.  Additionally, “transformative” uses are more likely to be considered fair.  Transformative uses are those that add something new, with a further purpose or different character, and do not substitute for the original use of the work.

I think that we as educators actually can make it difficult for students because of this thought that “We are in Education so it’s okay for us.” We aren’t held to the same account as the students will be when they are writing papers as they get older. Because of the exemption for educators, we don’t create the habits in ourselves that we can use to teach students. So we spend years showing them the wrong way to do something only then to force them to change in a very short time, usually in high school.

That is why I was glad to find resources like Dustin Senos’s Stock Photo List. As Dustin says bookmark this site because you will need it. I am going to make a more conscious effort to not only use Creative Commons images but to encourage teachers to do the same. That is the main thing that we as educators have to do, make the effort to search out and find images with Creative Commons licenses so that we can show our students what they should be doing in their work.

Another thing that I found that I can use to help teachers is this visual resource from The Visual Communication Guy. I would show you a picture of the visual but I do not have a license. Though he does say when asked that a teacher can use it in their classroom! I think that this visual is simple yet effective. It is easy to understand and could be used with younger students.

The main thing that we try to teach our students is that if at all possible to take any pictures themselves. This is not only for copyright reasons but also because we are trying to get them to learn how to create not just consume. To create resources to show what they have learned, not just regurgitate what they have read. That being said, taking your own images is not always possible. So when we can’t use images that we take we need to make sure that students know easy, simple ways to find Creative Commons images. Easy and Simple being the keyword.

Another resource that I would add to Dustin’s list is Photos for Class which a fellow teacher used this in her class recently. I think that the biggest issue that students have with these types of services is that they don’t always have images that our students want to use. That is where we as educators have to manage expectations and wants against reality. As well as encourage creativity in our students. If you can’t “grab” an internet image, what could you do instead? This is maybe the more important question that we should be asking our students.

Even after all of the reading and research on this topic, I am still wondering does use of a logo as a link to the site count? For example, you will notice the PYP and MAP logos on our site. Is that okay? The PYP one links to our evidence collecting site for our PYP evaluation visit that is forthcoming and the MAP one leads to the website that our MAP coordinator has created to help teachers remember how to proctor their MAP tests. I think the same rules probably apply, good thing it is being used by an educational institution!

I think that all and all we as teachers need to slow down and consider what we are doing? By finding a quick image are we showing our students the reality of what finding a good Creative Commons image is like or are we showing them good ways to cheat? Are we helping them or enabling them to do the wrong thing? Something to think about.

Course 2 Final Project Empowering Educators

Empowering Educators Website

This project has tested my collaboration skills. The purpose of this project was to build collaboratively. I think that in a normal COETAIL Course starting in September and having Course 2 ending near Christmas, that would be good timing. But with this course, it puts ending Course 2 very close to the beginning of school for some teachers. I think that has caught a lot of us out as several people were caught out.

But I digress! So we have been tasked to work collaboratively to build a professional development program based on the Digital Citizenship (DC) themes of Course 2. When I joined Dudley and Michael they already had the basic idea for a three-day plan. So I jumped in with helping clarify ways that we could do this by thinking of it not as three days but as three courses. That way they could be delivered in a variety of ways not just on PD or pre-planning days. After some initial freaking out about how much time we had and getting a small extension we began to claim our “day”. I chose to work on DC through the G Suite.

We chose to create a website so that we would have, as a team, even more, ability to share the courses with teachers. The website could be used during a PD day or a pre-planning session or it could be shared with teachers so that they can use it independently. The advantage of a website is that it is easy to update, easy to find (if you bookmark it!) and allows for multiple inputs. This means that it will not be a one-time click on a slideshow read it and then never review it again, resource. It can become a live resource within a school to be used to continue the conversation around Digital Citizenship, Privacy, and Digital Literacy.

The propose of my page of the website is to give teachers the talking points and information that they need to make sure that they are bringing up the ideas of DC whenever they are using technology. I feel that this is a much better way to deliver DC than having stand-alone DC lessons with no connection to what you are actually using in class at that point in time.

So I created a slideshow to highlight the key points around DC in some of the G Suite apps. In theory, the slideshow could be one that is given to teachers to read by themselves but I have found that a) They don’t read them and b) that method does not give them the opportunity to ask questions about real live instances that have happened in their classrooms. Also by presenting these to a whole group, you are more likely to have everyone get the same interpretation (though not always!).

I chose the DC through G Suite because I have found that many times teachers miss prime opportunities to embed DC while using the apps in their classrooms. With just a simple reminder to the students about expectations each time they open an app they are less likely to have issues. I can remember back to a visit in 2010 to NIST in Bangkok. I ask the students about email and without fail every time I asked them about their email they said “We use email for school purposes only” then they answered my question. It was obvious that they had heard that over and over again and they knew the purpose of email in at setting.


Thank you to Michael Leyland and Dudley Rosenblatt for working with me on this.

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?