What does Community have to do with Digital Citizenship?

Although much has been said about digital citizenship in education, what does it look like when it is truly introduced in a cross-curricular manner?  Although there is a great framework in place for Saskatchewan teachers as Krista and Kelsie pointed out in their recent video on the subject of digital citizenship, it is at times difficult to implement in a strategic and meaningful way.  In reflecting on the question of the educators’ role in digital citizenship, I realized several things.  First of all, digital citizenship has been largely focused on elementary students.  Due to the fact that high school students are ‘generally’ more mature  and have developed the technical skills to use technology, teachers and parents often  assume that they also know how to be responsible digital citizens online.  Secondly, I realized that in the 10 years that I have been teaching, digital citizenship education has almost exclusively been defined by the idea of digital safety.  The thought being that if we can at least keep kids safe while they are online, then we have done our jobs.  This is a strategy driven by fear and, as witnessed throughout history, the best laid plans driven by fear can have dire consequences.

Digital Citizenship education has to be about more than fear mongering and trying to keep kids from visiting certain websites online.  There several key aspects necessary for true digital citizens to emerge within a school.  To break things down I would like to examine 2 key questions.  Firstly,  What does digital citizenship mean?  Some common responses might be;

1. Being responsible and respectful to others in the community.

2. Caring about your community.

3. Being informed about the needs within your school and community.

4. Doing your best to make your community a better place.

It is clear that the common theme here is community.  The living, moving organisms that make up our physical and digital world.  The key to educating the future generation of digital citizens does not lie in strategies of protection but in community.  This is why schools with higher rates of belonging and connections with regard to school culture have fewer issues with social media and online bullying.  Understanding a school’s culture and climate are key aspects in enacting change in any fashion as pointed by Macneil in his study.    If a school has an existing culture and climate of positivity, community and engagement, good digital citizenship will follow.  It is crucial to understand that the digital world is simply a reflection of ourselves as human beings.  If positive school climate and culture foster community engagement and achievement, positive digital interactions will follow.  

A second important question to consider is this:

Why is digital citizenship important?

1. We need good digital citizens to make our school and community better for everyone.

2. It is our duty and obligation as digital citizens to do our part.

Just as we expect certain things of our administration, our teachers, and our students, we must have high expectations in our online interactions as well.  So often I find that students and many time teachers are unsure of what the expectations are for themselves.  What is considered acceptable to post online?  With whom may I have an interaction online?  How often should I be online?  How should I portray myself in online spaces?  In what forums may I speak out online about issues that matter to me?  These are questions that are not often discussed in schools perhaps.  The reality is that expectations for digital citizenship online need to be clearly defined in any school in order to foster caring and engaged digital citizens.  This is something I hope to address with our core teachers at my school in the near future.

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With the conditions of a positive school culture and digital expectations clearly defined, it becomes much more feasible to engage students in conversations around digital citizenship.  In many ways our Saskatchewan curriculum has many areas of crossover in which digital citizenship themes could be included.  If our province desires to be  a leader in this field, it will be important for schools to establish these expectations for students and staff.  As Quijada aptly pointed out in her TedTalk, themes like deconstructing media messages could be discussed in many different courses including Health Wellness, Psychology, Social Studies, or ELA.  Rob Williams points out that these ideas about media haven’t radically changed over time, we simply have more media content coming at us every day.  In his view, skepticism is the key to driving digital media education.  I believe this is an important piece of being a good digital citizen but it is somewhat simplistic.  As we learned through the discussion with Pat Maze this past week, there are often more grey areas than black and white.

On a more personal level, I need to be better about modelling what being a good community member of our school looks like.  I believe if every teacher commits to promoting a positive school culture and encouraging high expectations of digital citizenship, we will be on a steady path to where we want to be as a province.

Teaching digital citizenship should, in essence, be an offshoot of  what teachers are already doing all day, every day, anyway:  teaching kids to be good humans.

We are all in the business of raising up responsible and engaged citizens.  Keep encouraging students and modelling how to be the best they can be.  That is the role of teachers in digital citizenship education or as I prefer to think of it, Character Education!



Technology and Wellness: It’s Time to (Re)connect

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It’s been a while since my last post so I’ll start with a quick reintroduction.  I have been teaching K-12 in the French Immersion program in Regina, SK for ten years now and I have loved the challenges and rewards that have come along with it.  This is my final Masters course and so I’m very excited to be finishing my program in a fourth course taught by Alec Couros .   I used to consider myself somewhat tech savvy but have, in recent years, realized that I have only begun to scratch the surface.  In many ways it is becoming clear to me that the lives we live are inextricably linked to, and perhaps even defined by, technology.  The lines between the virtual world and the visceral world are being blurred infinitesimally.  As the younger generation makes its way through the doors and hallways of our schools, critical questions about the relationship between education and digital media/citizenship must be posed.  Today’s youth are connected in a way that previous generations could have never foreseen.  Content is being created and consumed at an unprecedented rate.  According to Youtube, 300 hours of new video are uploaded every minute and 500 billion videos are watched everyday.  It has never been easier to create, share and comment on media from all over the world.  Whether it be video, live streams, music, chat, images, gifs, etc, the world is awash with content.  So how do we curate and filter what we would like to consume? How do keep emotional, social, physical, and mental wellness intact?  More importantly, how do we teach youth to approach content through a critical lens?  One important caveat here is that to teach youth how to navigate these tidal waters of content, there must be an awareness of what is out there in the form of apps and websites.

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It is clear that the little social network that started it all (Facebook) has continued to gain popularity over the years and is growing in worldwide subscribers.  However, recently the now tech giant has struggled to attract younger audiences and a variety of smaller social networking startups have, one by one, risen to take the place of Facebook promising new features, live parties or greater connections with friends.  From Houseparty to Ask.fm to Sarahah to Vsco, apps fall in and out of favour with teens.  Some lasting a few months others making it almost a full year (or longer as in the example of Snapchat) until the next app storms the phones of the world’s adolescents. In the Fall, a CBC news story highlighted the dangers of apps that are secretive or ask for anonymous feedback reporting that cyberbullying and harassment levels are hitting all time highs among teens.  Common Sense Media gives Sarahah a rating of 1 out of 5 stars due to the potential risks involved with it’s use.  Some of the most popular apps among teens today are also causing the most psychological and emotional damage.  I agree that simply trying to limit or police the use of these apps is not really addressing the problem long term.  Along with teaching about digital citizenship and media literacy, modelling the proper use of apps and the use of technology to say healthy and well is crucial.   As Richard Louv suggests;

“Man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. —LUTHER STANDING BEAR (C. 1868–1939)”
― Richard LouvLast Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

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As an educator who teaches High School Math, Health and Phys ed, I have to admit that my use of technology has been quite limited to use in the confines of the 4 walls of my classroom in teaching of math.  I have gotten quite comfortable using blogs and apps in the classroom both for assessment and instruction.  However, there exists a whole host of apps designed for use outside of the classroom as well.  Health and wellness apps need to strike a balance between ease of use and engagement in order to help users reconnect with themselves, with nature, and find balance.  I hope to explore apps that promote health and wellness for teens and which can be used in the Sask Health 9 and Wellness 10 curriculums.  I have a keen interest in the outdoors and have been doing a lot of reading around Nature Deficit Disorder and the loss of connection to outdoor spaces.  I hope to be able to evaluate and explore the possibility of using technology to enhance learning in spaces like the Gym, Fitness Centre and in the best classroom there is: the outdoors.

Fitness apps and wearable technology has seen huge growth over the last number of years and as students are increasingly unable to separate themselves from their phones for more than a few minutes, it seems logical to utilize the existing technology.  Even augmented reality apps like Pokemon Go have been instrumental in getting kids active and outside.  My hope is to explore the relationship between Phys ed/outdoor ed and technology through the evaluation of various apps and their potential educational applications.  Many proponents tout technology as crucial in the engagement of students in phys ed/outdoor ed.  Others claim that technology and outdoor ed are diametrically opposed and cannot be mutually beneficial.  I believe that technology can play a pivotal role in outdoor ed/Phys ed through engagement, assessment and fostering connections with others and with nature.  Apps that encourage health and wellness are also a great tool to keep parents and students accountable in an age when unhealthy habits are all to easy to form and bullying due to online anonymity is growing.  Let me know what you think?  Please fill out the survey below to help me get started on this.

As far as concrete next steps are concerned, I hope to:

  1. Explore apps that are used in the Phys ed/outdoor ed community using #pechat, #outdoored, #wellness and #PhysEdTech
  2. Compile a list of apps and catergories to work from including but not limited to; fitness, augmented reality, mental health, outdoors, assessment, mindfulness, organization etc.
  3. Chose 3 apps and become familiar with the use of these apps through their use during term 2 Health 9 and Wellness 10 classes this year.
  4. Document findings through blogging and videos in order to draw final conclusions.



And That’s the Way It Is…


The famous Walter Cronkite would always sign off with the catch phrase, “and that’s the way it is.”  News anchors through the years have delivered summaries of important world events.  From Cronkite to Rather and of course Peter Mansbridge, trusted reporters deliver the facts.  So Krista, Liz and I thought it might be fun to try a  news cast for our summary of learning.  They are both colleagues, part of my core team and an incredible support for me in my teaching.  We had never worked with green screens before and it was a great opportunity to learn some new tech and have some fun. This semester has been an incredible journey and a great learning opportunity.  Gaining a deeper understanding of the theories behind tech implementation in the classroom was a big part of my learning during this class.   I had some previous knowledge of theory behind education but my practice has changed now to the point where I analyze each activity using tech to ensure the usage of tech for the right reasons.  Theory has also played a role in the ways that I examine my current practice and the ways that I teach.  In addition, The course created a great community of teachers and learners interested and engaged in pushing each other further along the edtech path.  Also, It offered a great opportunity to learn some new tricks, tips and tech tools to help us in our professional lives.  I especially enjoyed learning about the new technologies that may one day be the norm for teaching and learning such as virtual and augmented reality.  It seems as though the more we learn about edtech, the more there is to know.  I resolved as I was reviewing the course to keep 4 things in mind in the coming year.

  1. Evaluate tech tools based on theory
  2. Design the task and accompanying tech with authenticity
  3. Master tech tools that are useful in your practice
  4. Don’t over extend, take your time

There is no rush to the finish line in learning about edtech.  We are each learning at our own pace and doing what works in our own contexts.  The constant shifting in technology will always mean that we are trying to catch up.  Never forget where tech started.  Pencils and chalkboards were once considered cutting edge.  So I’ll simply end by saying, that’s the way it is…”

Please enjoy…

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Virtual Reality: Step into the Future

The intention of this week’s blog was to discuss a piece of educational software or media  and do an in-depth analysis of its potential and drawbacks in a classroom setting.  Since we presented this week, I had already done quite a bit of research into Kahn Academy and its ability to aid teachers in flipping their classrooms.  Since most of my limited readership has already been forced to listen to me for a full hour, I will look into a piece of tech/software that I think is very cool.  The idea of virtual reality is not something new but it is becoming more accessible.  In fact the New York Times just released a new film that can be viewed using a smartphone and Googles cardboard VR headsets.  Using a pre folded piece of cardboard, a smartphone, and Google VR Apps/Software, virtual reality can be brought into the classroom for little to no cost.  This is especially true for schools with higher socio-economic status due to the fact that most students will have their own devices to use with the viewers.  The possibilities are really endless when it comes to these virtual field trips.  However, are students simply consumers or can they interact in these virtual worlds?


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Many of the Google expeditions are based on the core sciences/social sciences and provide a different perspective to traditional textbook and lecture teaching.  Not only that, students can also capture and create their own VR experiences to share with their classmates and with the rest of the world.  Take Unity 3D as an example.  In this platform students can not only use an avatar to explore Egyptian or Mayan ruins, they can also build and create their own virtual representations to be explored by others.  In WiloStar 3D, students can take virtual secondary and post secondary courses in virtual environment using an avatar to interact with other students and professors.   Using the IOS or Android Apps from Google, sound and images are recorded in sync for others to enjoy in 3D.  Here are some other virtual worlds with an educational theme or focus:

It seems as if the rise in VR technology has pushed it into the mainstream.  Even in the 600th episode of The Simpsons, VR will make an appearance in the couch gag to open the show.  During the gag, a URL will appear on the screen which will direct viewers to the Google app in which they will be able to use their VR Cardboard viewers to enter the world of the Simpsons.


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The headsets can be ordered from Google or you can try your hand at making your own following the directions in the video below.  Here is the link to the template needed to make your very own headset.  With such an affordable tool, the possible benefits for students are many.  With the teacher as a guide, students can now visit world heritage sites, ancient ruins, archeological digs and much more.  Students can explore, analyze, discuss and get a true experience of what it’s like to be in these amazing places.  This software seems like it fits very well in the constructivist/connectivist school of thought in that it offers choice and freedom for students, allows them to build on preconceived knowledge, allows discussion and social interaction, and engages students in a meaningful way.  In addition, students will be able to interact with vivid objects in a sequential pattern that will mimic real world experience.  This will invariably lead to deep and meaningful learning experiences for students because they will see the effects of their chains of decisions within the VR app.

There are numerous advantages of using VR in the classroom and this technology may hold the key to the reason why our current system still sees many students falling through the cracks.  As William Win stated, “Since a great many students fail in school because they do not master the symbol systems of the disciplines they study, although they are perfectly capable of mastering the concepts that lie at the heart of the disciplines, it can be concluded that VR provides a route to success for children who might otherwise fail in our education system as it is currently construed.”  A second advantage of VR in the classroom addresses the all too familiar problem that arises when some students have mastered concepts being taught while others need remedial support.  VR allows students to literally become participants in their own learning which inevitably boosts motivation.  According to Dr. Veronica Pantelidis, “virtual reality allows students to progress at their own pace without being held back at a class schedule while also motivating them to learn.”

As an example, here is a tour of the amazing and historical Buckingham Palace.  On the screen you can click to move your view around the room as the tour is happening.  Using a VR headset, you can tilt your head to look around the room and advance to explore things you see or hear in the tour. Active rather than passive experience is a key benefit to VR in the classroom which is just one of many possible benefits including;

  • Immersive experience means no distractions
  • Immediate engagement: useful in today’s world of limited attention spans
  • Exploration and hands on approach aids with learning and retention
  • Helps with understanding complex subjects/theories/concepts
  • Suited to all types of learning styles, e.g. visual

So, why aren’t we all rushing out to spend money on this new technological trend?  Simply put, the recent rethinking of Ipads in the classroom has school divisions reevaluating what educational technology should look like.  Cost is a huge deterrent as well, even considering Google cardboard.  Finally, it is also clear that the technology may not lend itself as easily to teaching in some subject areas and depends on BYOD policies that can be problematic for some schools and impossible to implement in others.  Despite all of this, I do think that we will begin to see more VR in classrooms as costs come down and VR software specific to curricula is built.


What do you think?  Is virtual reality the next trend in educational technology?  Let me know in the comments section below.

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A Journey Into the Mind


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For some reason I’ve always loved philosophy and the practice of reasoning.  I took Philosophy 100 as an elective in my first year of university.  The idea of thinking about the way we think is somehow very appealing to me.  From Plato to Descartes, being able to talk about metacognition is a fascinating insight into the power of the human brain.  Although the questions may seem somewhat existential, there is a very real link between philosophy and education.  Questions like “how do we learn?” and “when do we know something?” must be considered foundational pedagogical questions for any practitioner.  The answers to these questions are, in reality, the driving force behind how and why we teach the way we do.  It is why some teachers tend to lean toward lecture vs. hands-on teaching or inductive vs deductive reasoning assignments.  Even the way we assess students or have them interact with information is affected by the way we view learning/knowledge.  Of the major views on knowledge and learning I would say that I tend toward the Constructivist paradigm, although I have been more and more intrigued by the ideas of Connectivism and and Rizhomatic Learning.  I believe strongly that learning is a social construct and that we form ideas through interactions with others.  Building communities of learning with others helps challenge our preconceived ideas and build strong cognitive processes.  In an increasingly digital world, social/digital interactions are becoming a key piece of every young person’s life.  We need only to look at some of the connections that exist already between Canadian classrooms and students all over the world to know that this way of interacting and learning will be crucial in the 21st century.


Although there are so many variables involved in looking at the way kids learn, I believe there are certain things we can observe about how students process information.  I don’t think we can discount what Maslow has posited that there needs to be a certain set of conditions present.  During my time working in a community school, this became very evident.  If students lack basics like food, proper clothing or the feeling of significance, they are not in a mental space to concentrate/learn.  Once these basics are met, the question becomes, how does this student learn?  In other words, do all students learn in the same way?  According to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, we can not apply a one-size-fits-all teaching method to our students.  There are some students who may display better retention of material through audio/visual methods, others may profit from hands-on tactile learning methods.  Even though differences in learning styles may be very evident, teachers need to be able to think about not only how information is taken up, but also how students analyze and process information.  For example, are experiences remembered in the same way as pictures or video?  Are students really constructing knowledge sets built of experiences?  Does the mind really work like a processor of information?  Can the mind be explored to understand true thought?  Or, are we simply reacting to what goes on in the world around us?  Perhaps it’s beneficial to take a cross-cultural view of knowledge and how we learn.

For example, in Africa, age is an  important determining factor and prerequisite for certain social tasks.  Everything is taught through doing.  Boys accompany their fathers or grandfathers to learn to hunt, collect honey, herd cattle, plant/harvest, or pick mangoes.  Girls follow their mothers or grandmothers as they thresh grain, cook, gather firewood, make fires, milk goats or make peanut butter.  The cycle goes as follows; observation of the skill performed by the older practitioner, skill practiced with help or close supervision, and then skill practiced independently until mastered.  These skills are needed for the well being of the family unit and so are given a high priority.  These are in many ways similar to the ways of knowing that are traditional among First Nations in Canada as well.          

In this short video by Dr. Martin Brokenleg, the Circle of Courage is explained as a philosophy of learning that is central to the ethos of First Nations life and culture.  The circle can be used to enhance learning in a different way.  The student consists of a mind, body, heart and spirit.  In order to have a complete and healthy person, he/she must have a complete circle made up of Belonging, Mastery, Independence, and Generosity.  I believe looking at learning from a more wholistic perspective definitely has some benefits.  We cannot simplify learning into a purely cognitive brain function.  To do so would be to say that emotion, interest or engagement plays no role in learning.  This is simply not true and we can often see that when students are engaged or are given some autonomy in the learning process, they flourish.  Building a sense of belonging, independence, mastery or generosity during the learning process will not only help students become lifelong learners, it will also help them become confident and capable members of our global community.  Isn’t that why we are educators?

After looking into the various learning theories, I have to say that I lean more significantly toward Social Constructivism.  I believe that human beings are social creatures and that we learn through constructing meaning from interactions and experiences.  I love the mentorship model that many native cultures around the world espouse.  I find it sad that we here in North America have forgotten what it means for a ‘village to raise a child’.  It takes a community of invested and trusting adults to raise up a child who has a complete circle of courage.  In the digital age, Connectivism is simply a continuation of this same theory.  Growing and learning together whether face to face or online.   It was Orange Shirt day yesterday and I was discussing with my Grade 9 class what reconciliation meant to them in the wake of residential schools.  I asked students to write down words that came to mind when they thought of reconciliation.  This is the list according to frequency that we came up with.  I think this is a good example of the ways in which knowledge and learning are enhanced by connection, support and community.  It is the only way to move forward in the face of difficulty.    wordcloud-1


Can We Fight the Future?



In many ways I’m disappointed that this class has come to an end.  Discussing edtech issues with fellow educators from all over the country has been a privilege.  I have definitely had to evaluate my point of view and it has undergone changes again and again.  I have been challenged to think critically about how I use technology in my classroom and I have even been presented with issues that I had not previously considered.  It was intriguing to speak with fellow educators who have very different viewpoints on educational technology.  It was very encouraging to discover that whether teachers are for or against edtech, a genuine love for students and a concentration on their needs was foremost.  Throughout the course I came to several key realizations which I will attempt to summarize here.



The first debate covered the merits of technology in the classroom and I came to the conclusion that technology for the sake of itself is a perilous venture.  Each integration of technology in the classroom must be weighed and measured for it’s ability to enhance the learning for students.  Teachers should not be scared to abandon certain aspects of their edtech strategy if it proves inefficient or contrary to learning.  Secondly, we discussed whether we should be teaching content that can be found on Google.  I came to a strong realization that there are certain pieces of information that must be scaffolded and therefore must be memorized.  However, I also am a strong believer in challenging students with critical questions and real world problems that cannot be simply searched.  Practical application and skill development are key skills for the 21st century.  When it comes to the role of technology in our health and wellness, I came away with the notion that in many ways screen time, online bullying, and the stresses placed upon children due to technology are indeed affecting our youth.  Although there are many instances in which technology can provide health benefits, if we are truly considering all health aspects including mental health, it seems as though a balanced approach to tech use with youth is warranted.  Ian makes a great point about the resiliency of kids which i think is necessary to keep in mind.   In the fourth debate we tackled the question of openness and sharing in educational settings.  I am still of the opinion that we need to do right by our students and be cautious with how and why we share on social media.  However, some of the greatest lightbulb moments in my classroom have come from making connections with classrooms and individuals from around the world.  It has truly opened my students eyes to a different worldview.



Tech for equity was another tough topic to tackle but due to my experiences overseas, I still had to come to the conclusion that although technology has made great strides for equity and that the bar continues to be raised, there is still much work to be done.  There are definitely many more marginalized voices being heard because of technology but at the same time, without equal access for all, it can hardly be equitable.  Social media is a huge reason why so many more people are interconnected.  However, it is also clearly playing a major role in the development of children in our society.  As previously mentioned, the sheer number of hours spent in front of screens on social media is staggering compared to even 5 years ago.  In my opinion, this is also an area teachers must approach with good modelling and a balanced strategy.  The appropriate use of social media for positivity must be a part of every classroom.  As Andy states in his summary, “with the right dosage and application, technology has the ability to enrich our lives, not harm them, but it must be used appropriately, responsibly, and we must be explicitly taught directions for use.”  If not, we will continue to see students who are depressed, overweight, stressed out, lacking sleep and unable to communicate face to face.

Lastly we discussed the corporatization of education and the role that companies now play in the future of our children.  Once again I was reminded that these types of decisions must always be made with students’ best interests in mind.  Education is a market that is ready to be tapped by many companies that would love a piece of the pie.  We need to ask ourselves, what’s the cost to our kids? and is it worth it?  I’m looking forward to discussing the overuse of technology and the necessity of unplugging from time to time as well.

In general I have come away with several key learnings from the course this term.  I’m calling these Luke’s Keys to Edtech Use.  Although they may seem simple, when applied to the issues discussed above, they have proven to be extremely good reminders when implemented in practice.  In essence, we will not be able to fight the future.  This is the way the world is headed.  What we can do is insure that students are first and foremost, that we are giving kids a balanced education, and that we are modelling what it means to live in a digital world.  Can we fight the future?  I certainly think we would be foolish to try.

Luke’s Keys to Edtech Issues

  1. Keep Kids First
  2. Take a Balanced Approach
  3. Model Model Model



In the spirit of the debate format of the class, Steve and I decided to record a podcast in which we tackled and summarized some of the issues presented in this course. We expound upon these in the following podcast.  We also researched some helpful links in our show notes to further explore these topics.  Please enjoy the debut episode of “Steve’s Wrong vs. No I’m Not”

The More We Share, the More We Have

I’ve been thinking recently about openness, sharing, and their places in education.  As technology has made its way further and further into education systems across the globe, the ability to share information has been  made vastly more accessible in recent years.  With a powerful device in almost every student and teachers’ pocket, there are limitless possibilities to how information and learning can be shared.  Teachers are using sites like Twitter, Facebook, Edublogs and Wikispaces to document and share their learning with the wider world.  Open course sites like Coursera, and Massive Open Online Courses are changing the way that information is disseminated and online collaboration tools such as Google and Mindmeister have afforded people the opportunity for amazingly creative works.  This is truly the age of open source learning.  However, open source learning without sharing is moot.

So, is sharing all that it’s cracked up to be?  We now live in a world in which sharing every minute detail of each moment of our lives has become normal.  We share photos of what food we’re eating, the shoes we just bought or the thoughts that pop into our head.  With openness comes inherent dangers as this video demonstrates.

Due to these types of online sharing in which no filter is applied, I have often asked the following questions, how much sharing is too much?  Is sharing inherently dangerous?  What is the role of online sharing in education?  Do the benefits outweigh the costs?  In my teaching career thus far I have been what I would call a cautious sharer.  I have a very detailed form that goes home to parents on the first day of school explaining the different platforms we use and allowing parents to give permission for the use of student photos.  We have student blogs but they are viewable only by parents, teachers or other students.  We also have a class twitter account but tweets are composed by myself or in conjunction with students to share what we are learning in the classroom.  Often the tweets are focused not on students themselves but on the projects or learning happening in the classroom.  Is this true sharing?  I think it’s a start. However, it is limiting in many ways.  First of all, the students’ writing is seen only by classmates and a select few parents.  Opening the blogging platform to open comments would allow more readers and therefore, more feedback and engagement.  Studies have shown that as students perceive a larger readership, their writing improves.  The connections formed with other classrooms through Twitter could be strengthened by allowing more control to be passed to the students.  So why is it so hard for me to open up our learning environment and allow deeper and more meaningful connections?


There are several factors that can tend to negate the full potential of connected and open online learning in classrooms.  Firstly, there are inherent risks involved with sharing information online regarding what students are doing.  Location services and GPS tracking in many apps can compromise the safety of students.  There are also many instances in which students need to be protected and anonymous do to court orders or protective custody.  Secondly, there must be an incredible amount of trust between teachers and students in order to allow students the control to share and connect openly and freely.  Obviously this looks different for various age groups.  High school students for example,  are often quite capable of deciding how to share their learning online.  However, this does necessitate some deeper conversations around what should be posted.  For younger students who lack the same discernment skills, this must be modelled and taught. Douglas Park School’s Aaron Warner is a great example of this mentality.  He routinely teaches and models the use of social media and online sharing with his Grade 7/8 class and eventually turns the reigns over to the students.  I believe this is one of the key components of open classrooms.

Education is not a secret, although aspects of good teaching practice can seem illusive at times.  It is a public and necessary part of our society.  I often cringe when parents express to me that they don’t know what is going on in their children’s classrooms.  With the tools we now have at our disposal, parents should have a clear and complete picture of their child’s experiences at school, even if the student themselves is vague on the details.  This was demonstrated during the debate with the short skit about what was being learned at school.  If there is something tangible and real to demonstrate, students will also be more engaged in the sharing process.  There is also a permanent record of what the learning goals are, steps taken to achieve them, and what the outcomes are.





As is demonstrated by the above sets of data, teens and young adults are some of the most pervasive sharers of information online.  In addition, the reasons why people share online are telling according to the New York Times study.  Let’s look at some of the top reasons people share online and apply an educator’s lens shall we…

1.To share relevant Information…Teachers and students should both be in the habit of sharing information.  Information is wealth and whether it’s teachers sharing lessons and resources with one another, or students sharing their successes and failures (failures?..yes I said failures because this is when true learning occurs).  Application: Teachers need to model for students which information is relevant and useful to be shared as well as who to share it with (how public?).

2. To support causes or issues they care about… This seems like a no brainer.  What a great opportunity to engage students in meaningful conversations about what’s going on in the world around them.  Students can be surprisingly charismatic, caring and engaged when it comes to supporting causes in the community or around the world.  Many times the students are the first to take action, quickly suggesting a support video for Laloche students, or organizing a bake sale to raise money for Cerebral Palsy. This is how meaningful connections are made and global citizens are produced.


Application: Let students share their passions and the things they care about.  Pick a list of causes that the class wants to connect with or support.  Discuss what it means to be a global citizen.  Challenge students to dream big and to change the world.

3. Connecting with others who share their interests… This is a great opportunity to network with other classes in your age category.  It also allows a chance to model who should be in our followers or friends lists as individuals.  Some of the best lessons I’ve used have come from connections with other classrooms in Saskatchewan and throughout the world.  As students share interests on blog sites or through Twitter, they build a wider audience and engage with the world outside the classroom.  Genius hour is a great example of this.  When we look at genius hour projects of other 7/8 classes the students up the anti.  Application: Let students explore passion projects.  Encourage students to share what they are learning or what they’ve created.  Model at first and compose Tweets or posts together as a class.

4. Expressing self identity and feeling of involvement in the world…This is an opportunity to model the permanency of our digital identity.  Students should build an awareness of how the class is perceived online and what our digital footprint will be.  Discuss with students which parts of our identity we wish to share with the world.  How involved should we be?  Application: Extend this thinking to students’ own personal sharing.  Engage them in discussions about how they should present themselves online.

Let’s take the time and get this one right.  Let’s show our students the power of positive sharing through meaningful connections.

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