Posts Tagged ‘Digital citizenship’

Lock Students Out of Applications, Teach Them to Make Responsible Choices, or Both

June 4, 2013

Introducing Guest Blogger, Laurie Walsh: There was a recent discussion on the state list serve for technology-using educators about how to respond when students use technology inappropriately. Do you block it for the offenders? Do you blog it for everyone? Can you really even block it? Do you teach digital citizenship and model appropriate use? I was especially impressed with Laurie Walsh's response and thought others might like to read her views, too. So I asked her to write a guest post for Bright Futures. She is the Tech Integrator for RSU 13, which serves Rockland, Thomaston, Cushing, South Thomaston, Owlshead, and St. George. Mike


As educators we often get bogged down dealing with kids using technology in inappropriate ways. Last night's Facebook drama spills over into our classrooms. Skype is used to share too much and someone is humiliated. It is frustrating because instead of focusing on all the innovative work we are doing in our classrooms every day, administrators or parents complain about how this video chat program or that social media site is creating problems at school or at home. They just want it to stop, so they demand we block the website or remove the tool from the laptops.

At the same time, the NETS digital citizenship standard requires that kids “advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology” and “demonstrate personal responsibility for life long learning” and “exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.” How can we expect kids to develop this kind of responsibility if they have no chance to use the tools? How do we help kids grow into these responsible digital citizens and yet keep them safe at the same time?

With skills like research and Internet use, we create a progressively more open environment as kids move through our schools. Little kids need to be kept safe until they have enough experience to make good choices, so kindergarteners may not have access to a browser on the devices they use. As they get older, we introduce kid-safe search engines, MARVEL, and Portaportals or teacher created webpages to keep them safe and on task. In late elementary school we teach students search methods explicitly and walk them through finding and evaluating resources online while we closely supervise their work. Finally, we have to let them prove that they know what to do by allowing them to work on the Web without as much direct instruction or close supervision. Hopefully they've learned enough to stay safe and work productively. If they haven't, we corral the ones who need more instruction and reteach, then try again. And again. And again. Most students seem to achieve responsible independent use at some point.

Shouldn't we take the same approach with our communications applications like Skype, Google Hangouts, chat, and messaging? We could model their use with the little kids by contacting other classrooms and experts through the teacher machines and projectors. We could supervise small groups of older elementary students as they do the same thing but in a more self-directed manner, identifying their own experts, making contact and arranging appointments, and conducting the interviews. Eventually we could allow regular use of these tools by individuals or groups of students as a way to do school work. Through an incremental process they could learn how to use them responsibly.

Maybe under-use of these tools in school is actually the cause of some of our problems. We avoid these tools because they can lead to trouble or because we are uncomfortable with them ourselves. If kids were encouraged and supported as they learned to use them in school on a regular basis, would they be more likely to use them responsibly when they are unsupervised? I think need embrace these tools and make them a regular part of our practice if we want to see or students develop into responsible digital citizens. More practice is the key, not less access.

Laurie Walsh


We (still) aren’t getting it!

January 28, 2013

I may have a bad case of the January grumpies, but frankly I’m tired of reading about these kinds of incidents. More than that I am angry that there seems to be little recourse, little discussion, and most important, little action taken. But take a look for yourself…

• Young teen girl is beaten up in her school…two onlookers film and upload video to Facebook.

•  Two high school students take their disagreement online where it inevitably escalates, disrupting a good portion of their school.

• After President Obama’s re-election last November and again after the Inauguration, a slew of racist comments appeared on Twitter and Facebook.

Not a day goes by when the Internet, TV news, and newspapers don’t feature several instances of students (ok, and adults too…and that is a big part of the problem) behaving inappropriately, sometimes badly, and occasionally illegally because of their online actions. Posting before thinking. Responding without weighing the consequences. Speaking without considering someone’s feelings.

We say our teens are tech-savvy, but what does that mean? For many teens it simply suggests they can navigate, use, and are not intimidated by their devices—laptops, tablets, smart phones, games, and of course, the Internet. Primary use of technology for many teens is still connecting with others (texting, social media) and entertainment (games, music, and more).

Far fewer teens than we would like actually take advantage of the technology at their disposal to learn, collaborate with others about bold ideas, problem solve (and particularly, problem find),  and give back to others. Let me say that again…the level of technology use for too many teens stops at texting and Facebook, unless we teach them how to be responsible (digital) citizens. And in this case, that “teaching” involves as much listening and discussing with them as it does about telling!

Here is what I suggest. Parents need to talk with their teens and teachers need to talk with their students about these issues. Our children and teens need to explicitly be taught what their responsibilities are for being good (digital) citizens, and how they can use technology responsibly, carefully, and ethically. (This is no easy task given the many examples of adults who misbehave online.)

But remember, this is not about technology. It is about common sense, using your brain, caring about others, setting good examples, not doing or saying things online that you would not do or say in face-to-face.

Take five minutes to talk to one of your classes today, and tomorrow, and the next day about a tech-related issue that has come up in your classroom, school, community, or in the news. Many of our students are desperate for guidance; they need to hear each other talk about the opportunities and challenges of being a teen in today’s society with the digital devices and tools they have access to. And of course, parents should have the same types of discussions.

Please note…this is not a rant. I’m simply asking teachers, school counselors, administrators, and parents to take five minutes each day to talk with a group of students about these issues as they arise. You don’t need to be a technology expert, you just need to talk about common sense behavior. Would you do or say this, or this, or this to someone face-to-face, as you have done hiding anonymously behind your computer?

There are tons of excellent resources available for kids of all ages, their teachers and parents. To get started investigate…

Common Sense Media

A Platform for Good

Please let me know how this works for you and the kids for whom you are responsible!

Positive Pressure and Support: Driving Your Initiative to a High Level of Implementation

June 14, 2012

Ok. It’s no secret.

Just having professional development doesn’t mean that your initiative is going to get implemented or implemented well. It doesn’t mean that your initiative will have it’s desired effect on your school.

Sure. PD is critical to getting where you’re going. But it isn’t sufficient.

Level of implementation matters.

A lot.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get better at implementing your laptops, or you’re using Bright Futures to look at your middle level practice, or if you’re working on a literacy initiative, or implementing the Common Core, or on Customized Learning, if you want your initiative to have the impact you’re looking for, then you need to insure that you have a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity.

So, how do you get to a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity?

The answer is possitive pressure and support.

Positive pressure and support has three easy pieces: expect, supervise, & support.

Expecting includes strategies like starting simple, participating yourself in trainings and meetings, having teachers set goals, and collaboratively setting expectations.

Supervising includes checking with teachers, talking about implementation at meetings, doing walk throughs, and talking about the walk through and level of implementation data.

Finally, support includes things like celebrating successes, facilitating the sharing of ideas, providing opportunities for PD (of course!), providing resources, and removing barriers and running interference.


How could positive pressure and support help your work at your school?


Laptops and Introductory Lessons

January 31, 2012

Recently, I wrote on the Multiple Pathways Blog about my reactions to Apple’s textbook announcements and to textbooks in general.

In the process of writing and reflecting, I realized that in Maine we a very different way to introduce a new topic.

Imagine an introductory lesson focused on building a student’s background knowledge. Instead of having students read a chapter on the causes of the Civil War (for example) and then discussing what they read (which, by the way, every single child not only read the exact same description of the causes, but they all have been exposed to only one take on those causes – the textbook’s), have students open their laptops and ask them, “what were the causes of the Civil War?” 

Students could search and share what they found. You could ask, “Did anyone find anything different?” You could even compare sources or discuss approaches to surfing and searching. You could have them find perspectives that would reflect substantially different points of view. You could explore and discuss different kinds of sources and the apparent relative value.

Well, maybe not the first time you do this with students, but certainly the more times you do, the more you model for them, and the more they reflect on the process, the more your “introductory” lessons could look like this. 

And think about the “learning” skills and digital citizenship skills your students would develop!

It’s Your Turn:

How do you leverage technology to reach students in new ways?

Free Webinar – Preventing Cyberbullying In Our Schools and Communities What Educational Leaders Must Do!

December 15, 2010

Be sure to join us from 4-5 PM, Wednesday, December 15th for this month’s MLTI Principals’ Webinar where principals, technology leaders, and experts on bullying and digital citizenship will be addressing
what needs to happen in our schools to address online bullying and harassment.

Our guests will be Yarmouth Principal and instructional technology leader, Ted Hall and Alice Barr; MLTI Digital Citizenship specialist and Integration Mentor, Teri Caouette, Ed Brazee and Connie Carter from Operation Breaking Sterotypes, and from StopBullyingNow!, Stan Davis.

So gather your MLTI leadership teams, teachers, and staff and join us for what will be an important, timely and engaging conversation!

Please visit to register.

The 2010-2011 webinar schedule is available at The schedule includes not only Principal Leadership Webinars, but the Weekly Thursday & Feed Forward webinar series as well. Please visit for more information, links to registration and also recordings of past webinars.


October 19, 2010

This blog post was written by Connie Carter and Ed Brazee. Connie is executive director of Operation Breaking Stereotypes, a non-profit organization that helps students address ethnic, socio-economic, gender, and racial stereotypes through short-term exchanges where students visit each other’s lives. Ed is a former University of Maine professor and teacher. Connie and Ed work with students, teachers, and parents on issues surrounding Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship.  For more information please contact or


Connie Carter and Ed Brazee


Last weekend, we made the annual journey to “close up camp” for the winter. Because we had already stopped service on our fiber optic cable for the season, we spent three days – make that 72. 5 hours – “disconnected”. Yes, we had cell phones (not smart phones) with pitifully poor reception, but no Internet, no TV. Previous to the weekend we had thought, “Great! A time when we can do some real planning for our digital citizenship project. Little did we know that the biggest learning of the time would be our reactions to being disconnected.

A few benefits…

  • We had very few distractions as we worked on our digital citizenship project—no temptation to check e-mail, no “Wikipedia journeys”, no endless hours on YouTube.
  • We had time to think in depth about the information already available to us without adding one more person’s insight or one more reference article – time to reflect on what we currently knew, time to be creative.
  • When we were tired of working, we actually got up and went outside, took a walk, paddled the kayaks, played with the dogs—no temptation to make our work breaks simply more time spent online.
  • We had time to write and time to edit!  We actually read pieces of our writing aloud to one another and then spent time deciding if what we said was what we meant. There was no way to check online to see if someone had said it better…or differently.

So what does all this mean for students and schools…and how will we apply this to our digital citizenship project?

A few considerations…

  • Community has been redefined right before our eyes. It is no longer just the people we see daily. Many of our communities, and those of our students, are intentional—the people we like, people we never see, people we want to get to know, people with whom we have something in common. The possibilities are limitless and the need for understanding how to negotiate and be safe and responsible in these communities is critical and immediate.
  • All of the knowledge in the world is at our fingertips. It is imperative that our students learn how to manage 24/7 access to that much information—how to handle the constant bombardment of data, how to filter real information from junk, how to determine what is fact and what is opinion, and how to know when they need to disconnect. More than ever, students need to learn critical thinking skills and how to manage the Internet highway to which they have been given an unlimited ride.
  • What are the values that guide student behavior—online and offline?  Because we can “say” something in a text, an e-mail, or a Facebook post and not in the receiver’s physical presence, there is a temptation to say things we might not say face-to-face. It is essential that students think about and act on the positive values that guide their behavior. Additionally, they must also learn to be courageous, standing up against threatening or inappropriate interactions, both real and virtual.
  • Finally, developing relationships has taken on new dimensions. Youth can be in“close”  relationships with people they have never met. They may grow to depend on hearing from them minute to minute through texts, phone messages, online chats. Obviously, students need to be cautious in these relationships, but they also must develop relationships in their own physical communities—put down the phone, disconnect, and give one-on-one attention to the people in their daily lives.

.  .  .  . . . . We are connected again. Along with a deep appreciation for our 72.5 hour “connection break” we have a new sense of urgency and commitment to work with students, their schools, and families…about the challenges, potential, and discoveries that await us all as we blend our digital and real lives!

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