Holly's Ed Tech Playground

May 2015 ("After STAAR") Edition

Let's Talk About The Internet...

So, my guess is, at this point in the year, you are counting the days that stand between you and the sweet freedom of summer.  We love our students, we love our jobs, we will be happy to start a new year with new faces in August... but it's time for a change of pace and it's always nice to have more than 10 minutes to eat lunch.  :)  That said, I want to share with you some parting advice before you and your students embark on your summer adventures.  

This month's Playground will feature tips to help you become internet savvy, and resources you can share with your students (and their parents) to promote digital citizenship over the summer.  You'll learn about the concept of a digital footprint, the importance of controlling the information you share digitally, and how to begin to introduce ideas about digital identity and responsibility to elementary students.

Our digital footprints are important pieces of our identity, and they are created and expanded with all aspects of our online activity.  This means everything you do on the internet--
  • creating that account so you could play team solitaire online
  • posting videos of your dogs on YouTube
  • telling your BFF happy birthday on Facebook
  • tweeting about the sale on hot dog buns you found at Kroger
-- is linked to you, can be searched and shared by others, and can never truly be deleted.

I don't say this to scare you... the internet is awesome and amazing!  And for your basic every-day online activities, as long as you take steps (we'll talk about those in a minute) to protect yourself, the openness of online data isn't a bad thing.  However, it is something that you want to control.

I love this video from Common Sense Media on digital footprints:

How can I control my digital footprint?

So, since you have the ability to craft your own digital footprint, what are some things to consider?


Yes, my username for BirdWatchersAnonymous.com may be completely unrelated to my actual name, but when I signed up using my email address, my bird watching fanaticism became linked to my personal email account.  This is part of why we discourage students from signing up for accounts on various websites using their school Gaggle accounts.  We are not as anonymous online as we think we are!


When your online activity reflects the kind of reputation you'd like to present to the non-digital world, you have little to worry about.  Making sure your online choices are appropriate (read: not embarrassing!) is a huge part of controlling what your digital footprint says about you.


When working with online sites that collect information from you, privacy settings can be very important.  All social media sites have different privacy settings, that limit the general audience for your content.  When creating accounts, you'll also want to make sure that your passwords are strong; this greatly reduces your risk of being "hacked", or having someone figure out your password and hijack your account.  Strong passwords include capital and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, and do not include key words related to you.  Using your dog's name and your birthday is probably not a great combo for a password, although, yes, it would be easy to remember.  Most importantly, you don't want your passwords associated with medical, financial, or social media sites to end up on this list...


Creating your own online presence empowers you.  Those who have no online presence are actually more open to online impersonation than those who have created multiple accounts for different services.  If you do not already have a Twitter account, for example, someone could use your persona to create one.  What they tweet to the world, using your false identity, is then tied to your name, but out of your control, which creates an uncomfortable situation.  By developing a presence in the digital world, you can choose to paint the image of yourself that you'd like others to see -- the language you use, the pictures you share (or don't share), the personality you present is up to you.  


When you share information-- in a blog, in social media, when signing up for something online-- consider that the information is now available to a much larger audience than if you were telling your coworkers or sharing something with your significant other over dinner.  There are some topics that may not be suitable for the global community you join when you share things online.  This is where your discretion becomes important.  No one can tell you exactly what you should or should not post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or any other social sharing site, but always keep in mind who might be reading/viewing/giggling about what you've shared.  Below are some common social media pit falls to be wary of (and, yes, some of these I have learned the hard way).

Some Things to Avoid on Social Media

Strong political messages
These tend to start online arguments, which are unflattering for everyone. It's easier and safer to avoid controversial political statements on social media altogether.

Pictures/messages relating to alcohol use or wild partying
I'm followed by/friends with coworkers, supervisors, and parents of students... I need to maintain a positive image! (Also, I'm really boring, so this isn't much of an issue.)

Overly depressing messages
"The world is a dark pit of darkness..." is not a great way to start a conversation in person; it's not great online either. If you're really struggling with emotions, call someone you trust and talk it out.

Complaining about work
This one is tricky... posting about being ready for the weekend is one thing.  Posting about how stupid you think the new school website is, or how annoying your students parents are, even without using names, is an entirely different can of worms.  
Don't open that can of worms.

Really bad grammar and spelling
No, there are no internet grammar police; you're not graded on the quality of your posts.  However, the way you express yourself in language is reflective of how you communicate in general.  Do a double check.  Edit posts when you need to.

Talking about students
Sharing a heartfelt message from a student is awesome-- everyone loves to hear stories about how teachers have impacted student lives. However, don't share names, and don't share events that might identify a student in particular-- it's a breach of confidentiality, and it can get you into legal trouble.
"I can't believe So-and-so threw a chair at me today" is different from "Today was a lesson in agility and forgiveness."

So, to summarize, we are all connected, probably to a greater degree than we might like, by how we share information online.  I liked the image above, by Alec Couros, as a visual representation of how a teacher interacts with the digital world.  It's a little bewildering, that we are so hyper-connected these days!  With so many variables in play, managing your digital footprint responsibly is an important part of your job as an educator and as a digital citizen!  The following section will discuss a little about how you can share some of these best practices with your students (or your own children).

Why do we need to talk about digital responsibility?

Students may or may not have the opportunity to discuss digital responsibility and internet safety.  Schools have long provided supplementary character education and citizenship lessons for students; now, educators are also tasked with teaching students about how to be good digital citizens.  So what does that actually include?

There are many models defining digital citizenship, but I like to break it down into a handful of categories:

Digital Literacy
Know your way around the digital tools and online landscape; use correct vocabulary to discuss digital tools, online content, and navigation!

Digital Communication
Understand how the internet and mobile devices can be used to communicate, and how that impacts our responsibilities as communicators.

Digital Rights & Responsibilities
Know basic rules about copyright, intellectual property, and age requirements for online services; explore how to adjust privacy settings, where to look for terms of service, and how to cite online sources used for academic projects.

Digital Safety
Understand how behaviors like cyberbullying, impersonation, and identity theft impact others; recognize the importance of keeping personal information private; know how to navigate to kid-friendly sites, create safe and strong passwords, and when to get adults involved in online activity.

The model above, based on themes described by Mike Ribble @ DigitalCitizenship.net is another way to think about the different components of digital citizenship.  Basically, there's a lot of information we take for granted relating to safe and savvy online practices that, without hands-on experience, anecdotal explanations, or closer examination, students may not naturally develop.  

Pick a topic or two and try to integrate these themes into a quick writing piece, a class discussion, or even a math problem... "If Johnny got 12 text messages from Selma on May 1st, but he's only allowed 50 text messages each month, how many more text messages can he receive before having to pay ridiculous overage charges?"... or, well, you get the idea.  :)

Resources for Students and Families

I've collected some online resources for you to share with students as they prepare for summer vacation, but they would make good activities for indoor recess during our rainy days in May, too!


NetSmartzKids is a great introduction to internet safety for younger students.  There are games, videos, activities, and ebooks available for free to use with the primary grades.

One of my favorite digital citizenship resources!  Students experience online learning and get to engage in practice and play in this series of digital literacy and safety lessons.

Digizen provides informative videos, and, more importantly, some simulations for older students where they have the opportunity to practice making positive digital decisions.

BrainPop rotates some of their content in and out of the "Free Stuff" section, but there are almost always some videos about digital safety/digital citizenship!


Pause & Think Online
This is a great animated song about positive online behaviors; ideal for K-2.

What is the Internet?
A handful of students share their thoughts about the Internet; this would be a great conversation-starter or writing prompt for grades 3-5.

Mindful Messaging
Students explore how digital communication differs from face-to-face communication.  Appropriate for grades 2-5.

For Parents...

CommonSenseMedia.org is an awesome resource for this topic and for educational technology learning in general.  I especially like their new section featuring articles and videos specifically for parents.  Share this with your students' families this summer to help build a stronger foundation in digital fluency in our district's communities.

This is another CommonSenseMedia.org collection of videos, most of which are geared toward middle school students, but appropriate for families to review together.  There are videos on topics such as Copyright, Privacy, Texting, YouTube, and Social Media.

This infographic from preschoolears.com provides some good strategies for parenting in the digital world!  Tips on limiting technology use, privacy and online safety, and coming to family agreements about technology and internet access are presented in an easy to follow, colorful format.

Time for some feedback!

If this sparked your interest, made you think, or inspired some questions, let me know!  Also, if you foresee some instructional technology needs in your post-STAAR future, send me a note and we'll schedule a meeting!