Children Can Have Their Voices Heard!

Kids are creative in so many ways and thanks to the internet the ability to share their creativity has spread dramatically! I was shocked to listen to the Scott McLeod’s TedX discussion about Martha from Scotland to learn that she was only 9 years old!  While watching her on Martha Payne: “Changing the World” I noticed she was just a typical fourth grader, too scared to speak in front of a large crowed, yet she somehow managed to create a movement to change school lunches as well as provide school lunches for children in Malawi all by taking a picture of her school lunch and writing a short blog! Her word spread so quickly with the internet and she has been able to create quite a change when I am sure that was not even her original intention.

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During our writer’s’ workshop, we are always discussing an audience, and usually that audience for most of what they do in school is the teacher. If the children’s platforms to express themselves online, perhaps the term audience can have a whole new meaning! Naturally, privacy, copyright information and digital citizenship skills need to be addressed prior and during internet usage whether it be posing of searching.

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Kids can begin to search for other kids that have made a difference and learn from them! Searching the web is always a tricky subject, especially when working with five year olds, however, I am beginning to realize that it is something that should be discussed. Tasha Bergson-Michelson made a good point in her article Building Good Search Skills: What Students Need to Know,

Search competency is a form of literacy, like learning a language or subject. Like any literacy, it requires having discrete skills as well as accumulating experience in how and when to use them. But this kind of intuition can’t be taught in a day or even in a unit – it has to be built up through exercise and with the guidance of instructors while students take on researching challenges.

I have already seen the children go onto the internet and find their favorite web page or games, but I have never seen them attempt to search. There are many great search engines for kids such as Kiddle that can easily be used to show children some of the basics and techniques for how to search for something using or two words (they can ask for help with spelling, etc).  Anything that is typed in can be found and there is no worry or concern about something inappropriate coming up. The articles, or links are all child friendly and easy for the kids to navigate. This is an excellent tool for them to begin learning basic searching skills while using the internet! This provides them the opportunity to realize their audience can be much bigger than just the teacher or parent as well.


The children can also look for ways to share their ideas or information. Kids can begin to create blogs, such as Martha did, or videos or many of the other tools (that I have not even figured out yet!).

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I know for my final project, I am going to collaborate with some fellow cohorts as well as possibly with some other schools (that my tech coach is helping me find). The plan is to begin a conversation with kids in other schools, then as we get to know each other more, begin to introduce the NGSS Science standard Earth and Human Activity to find solutions and discuss ways humans can reduce their impact on the environment.


We are beginning with the introductions to basically give the children a chance to meet each other and create “friends” all over as well as help them realize their audience is bigger than just the people in their immediate environment.  When we begin to delve deeper into the actual standard, I hope the children will realize the differences in the environments and learn some common solutions as well as learn some new solutions to reducing the impact on the environment.


I have big ideas for this connection through blogging, but I am happy to have a lot of help and support to keep things focused and simple for the time being. Who knows where it will lead though! It is an exciting new adventure for me as well as my students as we close out the school year!

The children are our future and they can make a difference! Allowing them the opportunity to feel important and have their voice be heard is inspiring. Who knows what amazing things they can do!

Digital Citizenship Education Needs to Start Now

I had been using technology in my classroom for years as well as trying new things with the students, but I had never paid much attention to digital citizenship (nor even heard the term) before I began this COETAIL course. This clearly states how far behind I am on something that is so vital in today’s ever changing world of technology and education.

I know my colleagues and I had always taught the basic uses of technology (turn the computer on, volume control, sharing the iPad, etc.)  we had never spent much time thinking about  what exactly digital citizenship is or how to teach it. After Reading Mike Ribble’s article Passport to Digital Citizenship, I realized there is much more to technology than just proper technical use of the machines, nor just how to use different programs and apps.  Ribble asks some great questions that really caused me to think:

With all this technology, do we ever stop to ask, “Am I using this technology appropriately?” or does this thought even  enter our minds? If we do think about it, are we teaching students to become more responsible with their behavior, and does this carry over when they go home? Do we have a “common language” that we can use to talk to students and parents about appropriate technology behavior?”


I truly had never thought about the copyright issue and citing pictures from google till I read more about it. Was I using the technology appropriately or was I basically stealing other people’s work? I know I am not the only one who has never thought much about these questions while using technology (whether for personal use, professional use, or even in the classroom!). I do not even think my colleagues and I use a common language when it comes to how we talk about technology behavior!

So who’s job is it to teach digital citizenship?  Well, I realize that everyone from parents and the community need to be on the same page and it needs to begin at an early age. I read the post from fellow cohort, Holly Fraser, Digiteal Citizenship in our Brave New (Digital) World, where she notices digital citizenship is not really taught till grade 3.

“Another thing I have noticed is Digital Literacy/Citizenship instruction often not as integrated as we might like–currently grade 3 at my current school completes a unit about Digital Citizenship.”

I know the upper elementary at my school is discussing more about digital literacy and proper use of technology, but this is due to the fact that they 1:1 technology use. I am not sure about grades 1-2 (I know when I taught grade 1 last year, I did not discuss digital citizenship at all) and I know for a fact it is not discussed in kindergarten (my current grade).

I agree with Holly that is should be taught and integrated into the curriculum as early as the preschool/early year grades and should continue to be reinforced and elaborated on as the children grow.  Basic language and additional support for parents should also be provided.

Often teachers (myself included ) are not fully sure what approaches to take to even introduce digital citizenship.  I really enjoyed the Danah Boyd’s article, Bullying has little resonance with teenagers. Even though it discussed issues with teens and my students are clearly not teens, she did state, “Empathy, Not Technology, Is Core of the Problem and the Solution.”  This is a great place to start when teaching digital citizenship! Empathy is a huge concept that we discuss in kindergarten! Even though the children do not fully understand the idea of “putting himself in another person’s shoes,” we are always discussing basic ideas of understanding another person’s feelings and trying to emphasize with them in a way. It is never too early to teach empathy and these lessons come up daily!


Another great resource that I can use and introduce to my colleagues to help teach digital citizenship to younger students was the Common Sense Education website. I am shocked that I have never seen this website before! There are great lesson plans that can help teachers who are stuck on the best ways to teach digital citizenship. I even emailed the tech coach and asked him for more advice on how we can include this into our basic curriculum for teachers like myself who need some more support (and awareness ) with digital citizenship.


It is more important now than ever to begin teaching children at a young age about digital citizenship! With “ 74% of teens are mobile internet users and 37% of all teens have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011” (What Are Teens Doing Online). With this big of an increase in just five years, my students teen years are going to be bombarded with technology and many new tools that will keep them online. They have to learn how to be good digital citizens and now!

Creativity or plagiarism

Teaching younger students has given me a few advantages of not having to worry about kids buying their papers on the internet or having to check their sources while reading their informational papers, yet it has not stopped me from teaching some of the basics about plagiarism. Young children are always eager to copy from books, pictures and movies. While I have no problem with them doing this, I’ve always taught them that they need to give credit to the author or illustrator in some way. They do realize and understand that copying someone’s story and calling it their own story is not fair.


While watching Everything is a remix, I immediately began to think about the way I teach writing to younger children. I often use authors as mentor texts to model and teach that writers do use what other writers have done to help them create their own piece. Of course, copying directly from the author is discouraged, but using different aspects of the writing is acceptable. Even without the use of technology, remixes and mashups are being generated and created to help the children create their own masterpieces.

This does make me think about creativity and whether or not the laws are stifling creativity by being a too conservative. Lawrence Lessig made some very valid arguments in his TedX talk about how we may have gone too far with our restrictions and copyright laws. Is it possible to allow creativitlawy yet still protect the rights of the original users?


There are so many issues and small fine print in the copyright laws I was not even aware of. I had no idea that cutting and pasting pictures from the internet could lead to so many issues as described in the article, Understanding and Respecting the Copyright a problem for many.  In the article, Wesley Fryer discusses a case where a young girl’s picture is used in an add  without her knowledge that it was even online. The fault can belong to many  including the person who posted the original picture. I am always posting pictures and copying and pasting pictures for emails, lessons, etc. I had never paid any attention to whether or not I was following the copyright law. Am I breaking the copyright law with the pictures I add to my blogs? I certainly have never thought about that before.

Fryer also suggests the use of iforms in schools. “media release and publication forms should be required just as medical forms often are.”  This reminds me of my time teaching in Japan (a country that follows rules to the very minute detail) and the amount of time it took for us to post pictures on our class website of the children interacting with the elderly. We had several forms we needed to fill out through the school, the nursing home we went to required several more forms to be filled out and we still had to make sure the elderly’s faces were covered or blurred. No names nor identification was ever given for the people we worked with, but with all the strict laws and procedures, a lot of effort went into the protection oface coverf the elderly people we visited. Fortunately for me, I do not speak Japanese so the forms were filled out by other staff members, but I had to review every picture posted to make sure no one’s face was fully recognizable. I do understand the importance of all this, but it was a lot of effort and very time consuming. Now I make every attempt to try to protect the children’s privacy and error on the side of caution when I post pictures of them (usually only on Twitter). There are many moments this does not happen and even though my students do have media forms filled out, I still try to be careful.

Being creative and remixing, changing things around or creating something new while using something old is not a new concept, but it is becoming more and more difficult with all the copyright laws and rules out there. I try to model and teach my young students the best I can to respect the laws, but sometimes I may not be aware myself if I am following them. I do want to see more creativity and it is a fine balance respecting the laws while still being creative with works from others.

Privacy…What’s that?

As a child I remember making a big deal out of having to share my room with  my sister and my lack of privacy. I always valued my privacy and it lead to many arguments. Little did I know, privacy would become a treasured commodity in our current digital age.


As I mentioned in my previous blog post, The Development of my Digital Footprint, I began using Myspace and Facebook  in my early 20’s when I was “young and stupid.” I did not think about what was being posted, who would see it nor whether it was appropriate or not. I just enjoyed the idea of posting, having friends comment or just sharing my crazy adventures with anyone who wanted to see it. I always assumed only my friends or people I added would be the only people to see what was posted so I just didn’t care.

I wish I knew more about privacy then and just how easy it is for anyone to see anything that may have been posted. To me, I do not think I posted anything too wild, crazy and never illegal, but who knows what others may think.

In Matt McKeon’s, The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook,  the diagram details how quickly privacy changed on Facebook in just five years! The final diagram is from 2010 and that was already 6 years ago! There is virtually no privacy left on Facebook! I feel like I am constantly going into settings and trying to make my Facebook as private as possible.  Even though I am careful about what I post now, I did have Facebook years ago and who knows what may have been posted that is still out there for all to see (again I don’t think I have anything too incriminating, but I was tagged in some interesting posts while in the background).

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Despite all of my privacy settings, there are probably several pictures of me floating around in cyberspace unbeknownst to me. In the age of Facebook where our private lives are flaunted in a public arena on a daily basis, our typical notion of privacy has become outdated.   Privacy no longer means having control over who has access to pictures and information (The Rebel Yell)

It is a shame that the privacy is so limited as I do enjoy posting different pictures and things for my friends and family to see. I am very nervous now about what I post and never post anything related to work even though I would love to share some of the amazing things my students do. I try to keep my Facebook very personal and strictly for friends and family while I use Twitter, Google+, for work related things but I still fear the privacy of what I post for work.

I read fellow cohort Matt Dolmont’s blog Google Yourself and decided to take his recommendation to “google myself.”  First of all, I was surprised at how many Amber Dryer’s there are in this world, but I also was shocked to see some of my own photos pop up! I have all my digital accounts privacy settings set at the max, yet I still noticed some pictures from some of my travels pop up as well as my staff picture! Of course, my COETAIL blog showed up along with an old (very old) address. I can’t say I am too thrilled but again I guess I am happy nothing terrible showed up (if there were something terrible, I am sure the internet would find it before I would!)

Due to the lack of privacy on the internet,  I try not to post pictures of my students faces even though I have been given permission. Part of this is due to my time in Guatemala where the students could be kidnapped and it was strictly prohibited to post anything with student faces and names.  I know I am not in Guatemala, but I still worry about what is posted and the children’s privacy.  I do not want to post things that infringe on their privacy as well.  It is a fine line and hard balance trying to share what is done and still protect the privacy of my students and their families.

Needless to say, I am not too happy about the lack of privacy on the internet and wish it were still just friends and family. Even though I am more grown up, careful and much more conservative about what I do on the internet, just liking something can lead to dangerous consequences. I do not feel it is right and wish for my days when my sister was the only one I had to argue with about my privacy.