messy + free-flowing= to know is not enough

Digital Citizenship: What should educators do?

It has become extremely important for educators these days to educate themselves, as well as, students about the new era of digital citizenship—in order to develop, as Nancy Watson explains a “#DigCit State of Mind.” As a first step, I investigated 3 web tools, to learn more about how they manage data and protect student identity—Weebly, Glogsterand Storyboard That.

Weebly is a free website builder that allows anyone to build their own websites quickly and easily. It’s a widely used platform with an extensive narrative on guidelines. Teachers  and students (13 +) can use this platform. I liked their ‘content guidelines’ as it makes clear what type of sites are not allowed—like, copyrighted content music, games, movies (that users don’t have a right to), adult (sexual content etc.), hate speech (race, religion, sexual orientation or gender, ethnicity), spam/SEO (a site whose sole purpose is to get Google ranking, Facebook “likes” etc.), phishing (a site meant to trick users into providing usernames/passwords), illegal content (information illegal in the US or other countries), scams (dubious schemes, get rich quick, pyramid/MLM), excessive advertising (including more than 3 advertising units per page), file hosting (including sites not created by Weeblyeditor), injurious experience (sites using “Custom HTML” element with flashing banners etc., that provides horrible user experience), illegal, inappropriate products (sites selling illegal items-weapons, counterfeit, stolen, violate privacy/publicity rights, offensive or manufactured).

The ‘Acceptance of Terms’ clearly states that action will be taken if they are violated, and it is applicable even when using the service on a trial basis. Further, the users contracting entity will be based on the ‘country of residence.’ Additionally, the user has to be legally capable of using the terms of the contract—legal age in country of residence. Parents/teachers/guardians can create account for young users. Teachers can create a special student account using their ‘education’ site. I really liked this entire site dedicated to educators to help them understand how Weeblyensures student data privacy. This site requires schools/districts or individual teachers to create accounts for younger students. They provide extensive information about—what privacy notice covers, what personal information Weeblycollects, how this information is used, who does Weeblyshare this information with, how long this information stays with Weebly, is this information ever transferred outside the country, what steps are taken to keep personal information safe, what are the users privacy rights, third party users, services and apps. The additional privacy information for U.S. educational institutions—includes relevant federal and state legislations: complying with FERPA, California Children’s Privacy Rights, AB 1584 checklist (containing other state rights). This checklist can be shared with students to educate them of their rights, data privacy laws etc., as well. Weebly updates information regularly and teachers and parents can use Weeblyto empower themselves and their students of digital identity and how to protect data, so that everyone can become good digital citizens. Teachers can use the Weebly ‘education’ site to teach students about copyright laws, digital safety and identity.

Glogster is a creative social site for students above age 13, centered around self-expression. It is a hybrid of blogging, social networking and digital creation. ‘Gloggers’ have to register to create a profile, add friends, and leave comments. The ‘glogs’ can be set to private or public mode, and are online posters that contain text, images, and multimedia elements. ‘Gloggers’ are able to upload their own photos/graphics, or use elements provided by site. Registered users can post comments, rate glogs, and add friends. The site awards “G points” to users for creating glogs, inviting friends, and embedding a glog in an online profile. Live Pulse provides a live feed of glog activity a they’re created or updated. Since this site can be used creatively, I expected the ‘Terms of Service’ to be as exhaustive as Weebly. However, I was disappointed to see that it was not so. Apart from claiming that the site uses copyrighted materials, it puts the user in charge of figuring out if the materials they are uploading are copyrighted or not. The ‘public’ feature allows users to make their materials available to other visitors—hence, parents/teachers should educate students extensively on the elements of copyright, personal data management and student data privacy laws before they begin to use this site.

Glogster clearly states that it does not edit or screen any postings (no responsibility/liability). It also states under “Use Is At Visitor’s Risk,” that students should do due diligence before creating an online profile. The site does have a “Protection of Child Contact Information” section, where they acknowledge FERPA guidelines, and the site has adopted some protocols in compliance with COPPA. Parental consent and verification are required for students under 13, however, the site offers no detailed education on the topic. Personally, I didn’t like that they allow third party advertisements to appear and offer very limited guidance on the subject. Their privacy policy follows the same guidelines as Weebly (not as detailed), and they encourage parents to report any unauthorized use of site. An area of concern about this site, is that it does so little in assuming the responsibility to educate students—leaving teachers and parents to do it. The website itself is very attractive, though it could be more user-friendly. If students don’t know and understand data privacy etc., they are very likely to stumble upon materials that will be confusing to them.

Storyboard That is a website that lets students above the age of 13 to create storyboards for learning and fun. Students can fill panels with images from an image bank by dragging and dropping characters and props into scenes, then adding text into dialogue bubbles or anywhere else. There are lots of choices—characters, scenes etc. Once a storyboard is completed, it can be saved to individual accounts to be worked on at a later time or saved to a computer as a power point file. Teachers can create accounts for younger students. The Privacy Policy is extensive and offers teachers and students with detailed information on all topics. It addresses the concerns raised by FERPA and COPPA, and goes a step further by signing the ‘Student Privacy Pledge.’ The website is easy to use for both students and teachers. Teachers can use this site’s privacy policy, copyright laws etc., to teach students about digital identity, management and data privacy. I really like the ‘Student Privacy Pledge,’ as it offers a host of teachable moments on issues like cyberbullying, selling data to third party companies.

Integrating digital citizenship into everyday teaching and learning practice should become a new norm in schools. Teachers are afraid to use and introduce their students to quality digital tools to enhance their learning, as many adults do not know what to look for when assessing the value-proposition of websites and apps. Sometimes they assign digital tools randomly without doing much research themselves or come to rely heavily on their technology/media specialists to provide them with some options. I learned a lot from this experience. Now, I know what to look for when selecting quality tech tools for students and as a first step—our teachers require training so that they can become independent in their thinking when it comes to tech-tool selection. This will further help them to integrate technology and promote a positive vision of digital citizenship for their students. As a school, adequate teacher tech-tool training is the first step that requires attention, and this is our direction.




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Design-Thinking: A+ Pedagogical Resource

My research on DT led me to a wonderful website ( Teachers Guild (TG) is a non-profit initiative of Plussed at Riverdale Country School , that is being  explored and incubated by IDEO’s Design for Learning Studio. A host of support staff are available to answer any questions on DT, that you may have as you implement the DT phases in their classrooms. A big draw for me is the fact that this website will allows me to collaborate with educators both locally and globally. Additionally, student voices are heard in the process as teachers create lessons to make an impact on teaching and learning! The resource is very user-friendly and easy to navigate.

The ‘Program’ button reveals two menus to explore: collaborations and chapters. As teaching has become an isolating experience, ‘Collaborations’ invites teachers to join a 14-week online challenge, where they can connect with other educators and explore topics that are posted. The current question is: How might we strengthen communication and trust between families and teachers to student success? The timeline is presented very clearly so that you can mark your calendars in advance, as you decide to participate in this very meaningful professional development journey. The ‘Chapters’ is a venue that helps to sustain a culture of creative leadership throughout your school, district or region. Teachers are able to lead a ‘chapter’ and begin a 2-year journey of creative leadership. This has further options: Creative Leadership Institute (you can pose DT questions that you or your district care about; Innovation Incubator (you can share ideas with teachers and students and gather data to know what works and why); and, Impact Showcase (believe in teacher-led change by honoring their DT solutions and the impact on students). There is so much under program that it will cater to everyone interested in DT in any stage of your career! These address every ISTE Standard for Educators, with the goal of creating an ongoing community adult learners!

The ‘Approach’ button, gives you an in-depth tour of DT methods and mindsets to facilitate creative leadership. These are taken from the “DT for Educators Toolkit’ a free download! A learner-centered approach to problem-solving, ‘methods’ build teacher confidence to design effective lessons to meet the diverse needs of our students. The DT phases are explained in detail and there are free downloadable resources for each. The ‘mindsets’ help in developing teacher beliefs and confidence in tackling and knowing what works for students and why–categorized under: courageous, experimental, optimistic, equitable, collaborative and empathetic. These directly address the ISTE Standards for Students, with the goal of creating 21st learners ready to tackle any problem!

The ‘Solutions’ button allows you to try teacher-led solutions. There are many free and wonderful ones that you can adapt and try in your own classrooms. I found some fascinating ones on–place-based education, career capstone for HS, and creative ELA!

This website is one designed by teachers for teachers and students. I have joined the online community and already feel part of a larger purpose. It will help me share the practices of my faculty with a broader world–thus, promoting valuable digital citizenship! It will also empower student learning as student voice and choice will be heard on this platform and teachers can work together to address them. I can connect and collaborate with teachers across the globe to investigate new topics for my students. Thus, collegial respect and diversity is something I am looking forward to–on a much wider scale. Overall, it is an A+ resource and I encourage you to use by simply signing up with your personal email…and, don’t forget to have FUN as you engage in the process!

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Is Education a RACE?

Interestingly, using quality children’s literature in classrooms is nothing new. In fact, it is considered best practice. In our third grade reading class, the classic picture book Is There Really A Human Race? co-authored by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell was read aloud.  Amidst student comments that they were too old for picture books, the teacher continued her reading. Soon silence enveloped the room—only, the soothing voice was heard. I could almost see the wheels in the little heads turning, as they were making sense of the words they heard and relished the pictures that went along with them.

Looking at the sea of faces, I found myself thinking about the truth that lurked behind the innocence of those words:

Is there really a human RACE? Is it going on now all over the place? When did it start? Who said, “Ready, Set, Go”?

I wonder:

Are we in the name of education going too FAST and to what END?

Is speeding up childhood REALLY contributing to social-emotional health of our kids?


Are we successfully creating generations who will FINISH life like a RACE?

Brakes on…THINK….





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Make a Habit

As part of a book group at school, I just finished reading Make it stick: The Science of Successful Learning, by Brown, Roediger & McDaniel (2014). The book highlights several research studies done across the spectrum covering various professions and successfully makes the point that we as educators are doing just too much for our students–questioning–to what end? A wonderful read using a commonsense approach to teaching and learning…the thing that caught my attention was simply the phrase “make a habit” (p. 201). Reflecting on this simple notion, I stumbled upon Angela Duckworth’s ‘Thought of the Week: The Salvation of Habits.’ Duckworth writes that a “habit is a behavior that when repeated in the same situation over and over again, and reliably rewarded, becomes automatic. Unlike other kinds of behavior, a habit runs on autopilot when triggered.”

This occurs as mental links are constructed between a trigger, cue, behavior, and reward. The question I ask is: WHY we as educators are helping students solidify their bad habits, instead of helping them form good ones in our classrooms everyday? When connecting this to who I am today, I find that whatever I have learned to this day began with my habit of self-reflection. In an effort to make my thinking visible, a simple equation to depict this is:

push out of comfort zones into the uncomfortable + courage to confront = self-reflection

Simply make a habit!

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Touch of…

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“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.”

-Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou

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Teaching “CHARACTER”

Is it possible to teach character…is it a concoction? What would a formula look like??

1 cup of ‘Wis-ledge’ (wisdom+knowledge) + 4 tbsp Courage + 5 tbsp Humanity & Justice + 2 tbsp Temperance + 2 tbsp Transcendence = CHARACTER


Grit + Hope + Self-Control + Curiosity + Social Intelligence + Gratitude + Zest = CHARACTER

How do we as parents and educators instill in our children a GROWTH MINDSET?

The buzz as we are about to begin a new school year, continues to revolve around such issues….the reality, however, is something else, we as adults need to ask ourselves:

(1) Should WE (as a society) practice hitting the ‘pause’ button more often, and allow room for both ourselves and our children to REFLECT on the PROCESS, and not the PRODUCT?

(2) Should WE learn to focus on our “STRUGGLES” each day, solving a PUZZLE rather than trying to fix PROBLEMS and emerge a winner?

I think the answer lies within each one of us….If we care to DIG DEEP!

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Finnish Lessons: What Can We Learn From Them?

Just finished reading:

Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? by Pasi Sahlberg is indeed thought provoking.  Finnish students have performed at the top in international science comparisons (PISA) for three successive examination starting at the end of the 1990s. Finland’s bedrock of success has been defined by a focus on personal development and equality instead of accountability characterized by a diet of standardized testing (note: that too with a short school day and year).  It seems the common U.S. reaction to the Finnish success is that: Finland is small, homogeneous, rich; and hence, their success cannot be replicated.  But as usual, Americans don’t care to see the most significant area that has contributed to this success: teacher education.

Today teaching is one of the highest-status professions in Finland and schools of education draw from the top 10% of their applicants.  Teachers are well respected and well paid, so teacher retention is almost 100%.  All teachers have research-based master’s degrees and teach within their areas of expertise.  Should this be a wakeup call for the U.S.? Really.  Further four factors have contributed to excellent teacher candidates:

1) Teaching attracts competent people in Finland, because it is viewed as a moral and important effort.

2) There is collaboration between subject matter teachers and schools of education, so that training is intertwined and is constantly recharged.

3) Teacher education is research-based so that teachers are engaged in action research constantly and also follows worldwide educational research.

4) Teachers are trusted by their principals and parents, and they view their work both in pragmatic and moral terms.

Thus, this book presents a strong argument to trying other alternatives to merely increasing levels of accountability, more school and teacher control, harassing capable teachers, more testing to twist scores, treating the education system as if they were business models, and micromanaging learning goals.

Could America ever show this kind of patience and planning going forward? Only time can tell….

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is unpredictable and whimsy

here to build relationships on one hand and break some on another,

should be full of simple, clear purpose giving rise to smart, intelligent choices

not seeing failure as a negative thing but part of our being, a process-approach

getting things wrong so it can be done right

as teachers modeling what is ethical, responsible actions


because we chose a profession dedicated to build up the future

and so must stick by it….

life is a treasure—-let’s preserve it

be the bigger person and end the strike in Chicago.

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Summer Reflections 2012

As I wait with baited breath for another school year to begin, perfecting on attending to the nuts and bolts in my classroom—I cannot help but ask myself: “So what’s going to be different this year?” Really, year after year of teaching first graders how to read and write and trying to sow the seeds of being lifelong readers and writers, also, teaching graduate students who want a doze of this and some of that—what’s new and exciting?  A summer spent on many worthwhile personal professional development ventures, I have some jot notes that I have taken away.

Being part of a yearlong action research project and probing the use of 21st century tools effectively in my classroom has been very liberating for me. I can’t stress it enough, but my brain seemed to have lost all capacities to embrace technology (never had any to begin with) or so I used to think. Spending time with my team, brought me face-to-face with other members who are also not as comfortable with the speed of enlightenment that we find ourselves surrounded by these days.  Yet again, I met other practitioners who are part of this new era of learning.  So at last, I admitted to myself (always knew it but never quite said it before), that I have a FEAR for new technologies—it may be, as simple as a TV remote to a slightly sophisticated washing machine.  But if I am to remain in my vocation, thrive, and enjoy it I need to come to terms with 21st century tools—they are here to stay, so I need to sleep well with them.  My AR team helped me to identify this trait in me.

Then came the Connecticut Writing Project (CWP), in the month of July.  What an exhilarating experience, and I highly recommend it to all teacher educator’s out there.  Under the guidance of a creative innovator BC, and joined by 10 fascinating and brilliant teachers from across the state—I spent 160 hours reading, writing, collaborating and learning to have FUN with words, to take risks and be a supportive audience.

This week, I just finished our mandatory summer read: Creating innovators: The making of young people who will change the world, by Tony Wagner.  An easy and enjoyable read (eager to hear him as he comes to speak to us next week), my summer enhancements now seem to make a lot more sense.  The central question I ask myself each year is: How do I go back with a song in my heart?   I am the singer, what’s my new song for my new audience going to be and how will I sing it?

It all goes back to the singer, if you think of it.  Wagner’s book and an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, by Katherine Mangan have a few ideas in common—some recent thinkings on how we all can keep abreast with changing times, despite self-doubt. They are play, passion, purpose. And this applies to people of all ages.

  • Play: we should encourage and be immersed with things we can explore (that appeal to us)
  • Passion: simply knowing is not enough–so to know more and learn from our students, colleagues, parents, family members and the community-at-large.
  • Purpose: why are we doing what we’re doing.
  • Creativity: making new knowledge for our consumers and us in more palatable ways.

Other strands are intricately woven with these 3 main ideals. For example, resilience (belief in oneself), self-regulation (focusing on key goals), focus (not multi-tasking), grit (dogged determination), and conscientiousness (organized and responsible). Of course, I remind myself these are all good personal tenets to nourish no matter the number of years one has been teaching and some great thoughts to begin our respective journeys again….  Some nuggets that have sprung at me are:

“If we think of the teaching profession as a profession, it is absolutely necessary that we live in a sharing environment, not a competitive one” (Dr. Brad Huff, ‘Comment of the Day,’ Education Week)

“What happens to a lot of people is that they get totally caught up in trivia, and later they complain they were asked to do too much of this or that. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to regulate yourself and decide what’s important  and what isn’t.” (Robert Sternberg)

“If you look at the profile of someone who’s realized creative success, they can’t be conventional.” (Brent Rogers of the University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign)

“If you’re really cutting edge, you’re going to be bucking the system, and people are going to fight you” (Gregory Feist)


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