Responsible Use Agreements that Empower: Course 2 Final Project

Big Idea

The big idea for me in course 2 is the importance of harnessing the power of technology to make positive contributions to our world.

Every time I search for something, every time I post something, every time I comment, I am leaving digital footprints. They can be good prints or bad prints. I can tear down or I can build up. I can consume or I can contribute. I can stay silent or I can speak up. I have a choice.

Unnerved by blinding speed technological advances, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the vast dangers  and complexity of the internet and just want to retreat from it all. This course has given me the opportunity to have a different perspective.

Today, like never before, because of technology and the internet, we have the opportunity to know what is going on in our world and choose to do good for our world. Through social media and blogging we can communicate our ideas to a global audience and to mobilize others to work for the common good of our world.

Responsible Use Agreement Project Reflection

I want my students to use digital tools to:

  • Be active global citizens
  • To create, explore, and grow as learners
  • To respect, educate, and protect themselves and others

But in order for them to be successful, they need a safe place with clear expectations. They need a Responsible Use Agreement (RUA) that will guide them in a positive direction so I chose option 1 as my project.

My thinking for this project was shaped by two people. Scott Mcleod, in his blog post, Instead of an AUP how about an EUP (Empowered Use Policy) helped me to see how powerful our words can be. Are we wanting to restrict our students by saying NO! NO! NO! all the time or should we be empowering them and inspiring them to use their digital tools to their full potential? I decided that I wanted my RUA to be written in positive language instead of negative language. The second person that influenced me was Dr. Mike Ribble. I decided to use, the white paper, Digital Citizenship: a Holistic Primer based on Dr Mike Ribble’s Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship as a framework for writing a sample RUA for our elementary school. He created the idea of REP. Respect. Educate. Protect. Those became my main categories.
For this project I collaborated with Erin and Lisa. Erin and Lisa both worked on an RUA for K-2 students and I worked on one for 3-5 students. First, Erin set up a shared google folder. We then agreed to do some research and talk to others. We also requested sample RUAs from other schools and shared our schools’ current technology agreements in our folder. Here is the current one for my school. I talked with my principal about the idea and she was positive. I also chatted with our tech director, David Elliott about our school’s tech use philosophy. I was pleased to hear him share a similar vision.

Originally, we compiled our ideas in one shared doc and then we each wrote our own sample RUA and provided helpful suggestions and comments for each other.

My colleague, Alexis Snider and former coetailer shared her group’s RUA with me. I liked their idea of providing links and supports for parents on the document after they sign their name.  So I modified and included these links as well.

Here is a Erin’s K-2 RUA. I love how she also created  an infographic using piktochart. I am planning to share her example when we work with our lower elementary team to develop one for younger students.

And here is mine:

It’s been a challenging but profitable course. I am looking forward to Course 3!

Genius Hour Part 2: An Opportunity for Students to Impact their World

Image: Pixabay CC0

In this week’s blog post we are focusing on how we as educators, can empower students to use technology to make a positive impact in their world.

The following TEDx talk by Scott McLeod called Extracurricular Empowerment, reminded me of the big picture of why I am giving my students the gift of time to work on their Genius Hour projects.

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This seems to be a good time to give an update on our Genius Hour project that we began some weeks ago. In my previous blog post Genius Hour: Where our Passions Intersect with the Needs of the World I talked about my aspirations for giving my third graders one hour every Friday to work on projects that relate to their passions that could meet a need in the world. And I am asking myself the question: Am I empowering my students to use technology to make a positive impact in their world?

  • We started with 3-4 weeks of just exploring different areas like making things out of cardboard, creating art, using wires and bulbs to experiment with electric circuits, coding, legos, etc. They began asking questions.
  • We spent a few weeks creating a heart map that included things we love, things we are interested in, things that make us sad, problems we want to solve and questions and wonderings we have.  We used our heart map to brainstorm a list of all the different types of genius projects we could try. I showed the students other brainstorm examples such as this one.
Genius Hour with Mr. Rafferty
Genius Hour with Mr. Rafferty

This step was not easy for my students and now, looking back, I moved us on too quickly from this very important step. The students just wanted to pick one idea and run with it without really thinking about how this idea connects to helping our world. I wish I would have spent more time showing them examples of other students and helping them with this step.

Joy Kirr has been one of my Genius Hour mentors as I embark on this journey.  I recently read a tweet from her that confirms that this stage is not to be rushed.

Had I spent more time on this, I think their final proposals would more reflect them and their heart for the world.

  • Next, students submitted their project proposals. The students made a plan, filled out a simple form and submitted it to me for approval. There were two criteria. Their project would involve learning something new and their project would improve our world.

Here are some of their project ideas:

  1. Write a digital fiction book
  2. Create a natural habitat for snails and frogs
  3. Learn how to use Scratch and create a story
  4. Write a book about different habitats and the animals that live there
  5. Create the ideal city (they want to do this in digital form but are researching which medium to use. Any suggestions?)
  6. Snake Awareness Project (we have a new campus in a rural area and the students want to research natural ways to keep snakes away and inform students of the dangers of snakes)
  7. Build a robot
  8. Learn some magic tricks and share them in book form
  9. Build a city in Minecraft Survival Mode. (7 of 21 students want to do this and I hesitated to approve it…I love Minecraft but I am having a hard time seeing it meet the criteria of “changing the world.” Although I did find this cool  UN project using Minecraft. If anyone has any thoughts on Minecraft and Genius Hour, let me know)
  • Next step for the students is research.

The article, Building Good Search Skills: What Students Need to Know was a great reminder that it’s never too early to start helping students learn research skills.

Here are a few ways I hope to guide my students in the research phase:

The most important step of all is for my students to begin reflecting and documenting their process in their blog. Getting their blogs up and running is the key to giving the students the opportunity to share their ideas with the rest of the world. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.

Digital Citizenship: An Opportunity to Train the Heart and Mind

Image credit: “world” by Alayna CC BY-SA 2.0

Helping our students become good digital citizens begins with some big questions we must ask ourselves and a vision that extends beyond the walls of our classroom: Why do we exist? What is our purpose? What kind of world do we envision? What kind of humans are we trying to become? How do we get there? How do we respond to failure and our own personal frailties?

Many of the issues we as educators are trying to address, such as cyberbullying, sexting, pornography addiction and plagiarism are actually symptoms of a deeper brokenness in our world, communities, and families, just as bad fruit on a tree is a result of shallow and unhealthy roots.

We as teachers are trained to engage the minds of our students, convince them with facts that they need to behave in certain ways, but it is not enough to teach the facts and hope that minds and actions will be changed. Somehow, we as teachers need to teach to the heart of our students.

These are lofty goals and a worthy calling.

I really believe teaching digital citizenship is more about inspiring our students to be positive, proactive, empathetic, creative individuals who contribute to our global community than about giving them a set of rules of what not to do. It’s about giving our students a vision for how technology can be used to learn, create, advocate and communicate for a greater common good.

Mariealice Curran in her post, Leading with Digital Citizenship: Let’s Break the Internet with Kindness, says:

Let’s make digital citizenship a verb and help our students bridge the physical gap between communities by connecting, collaborating, learning and doing digital citizenship together with other students and classrooms around the world.  Let’s help our teachers and students become active citizens and enablers of positive change.  Let’s focus on empathy and help our students humanize the person next to them, as well as across the screen.

Curran, along with her nine year old son began the #DigCitKids website and blog in order to inspire kids everywhere to become ambassadors for good digital citizenship. They create monthly challenges for students to join. This month’s challenge is based on the following quote by President Obama:

“I want us to ask ourselves everyday, how are we using technology to make a real difference in people’s lives” President Barak Obama

The challenge is for kids to answer the following question: How are you using technology everyday to make a real difference for your community, other kids and the world? To me this sums what it means for our students to be good digital citizens.

In his article,  Passport to Digital Citizenship, Dr. Mike Ribble talks about the need for teaching digital citizenship reflection. We should teach our students that we are forever  learning, unlearning and relearning. The following cycle can be used as a framework for teaching digital citizenship: awareness, guided practice, modeling and demonstration, and analysis and feedback. This final piece, analysis and feedback, to me is the most important step that helps us teach to their hearts. Students need time and structure to reflect and ask the following types of questions:

  • How am I using this technology to make a difference in my community?
  • What is working?
  • What is not working?
  • Is there something I can change or try?
  • Am I using this technology in a responsible way?
  • What have I been doing with my time: learning, creating, playing, hanging out, wasting time etc?
  • Why am I doing what I am doing?

By creating time and space for my students at the end of a lesson or inquiry, they will be able to look into their heart and self-reflect.

I decided to use, the white paper, Digital Citizenship: a Holistic Primer based on Dr Mike Ribble’s Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship as a framework for writing a sample RUA for our elementary school. My draft is coming together. While there is still much work to do, I am trying to focus more on how I want our students to BE rather than what they should or should not DO.

I am proud to work for a school like Concordia International School Hanoi, which values community, excellence, and service and exists to help students grow up to be thoughtful, active global citizens. We as teachers are able to integrate our values of love, compassion, community, humility and excellence with our value of high academic standards in order to teach to both the heart and minds of our students.


What are some other ways we can teach to the heart of our students?








Copyright, Creative Commons and Elementary Teaching


Creative Commons

Photo “Creative Commons” by Christina Alexanderson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I teach third grade.

I don’t usually concern myself with the debates surrounding a teacher’s right to fair use or whether or not I can play my iTunes music for my class or show a movie without obtaining a public showing license. I honestly haven’t given it much thought until now. So this week is the week to think about some big ideas…

The right to protect intellectual property in order to profit from that property

The freedom of information that stimulates innovation

Fair use that allows for works to be used for the purpose of teaching and learning

The introduction of new technologies resulting in the rapid production and spreading of digital works

These issues have implications for our classrooms. As an educator I want to model ethical decision making for my students so I am careful to teach my students about plagiarism and copyright infringement. I want them to learn how to give attribution to works. I want them to know that they can’t just take something that someone else created and say that they created it. But with the rapid changes happening everyday in the digital landscape and new technologies, I find myself confused.  Here are some tools and things I learned about this week to help me more forward.

Creative Commons, a non-profit organization founded in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, was started as a response to the increasing protective nature of copyright law in order to encourage more contribution of works into the public domain. Simply put, Creative Commons gives creators the ability to share their works more freely, while choosing some level of control in how the information is shared. Lessig, in his Ted Talk Re-examining the Remix, passionately defends the need for a new way to respect creators while at the same time, limiting regulation for the purpose of stimulating our collective creativity as we share works and build upon each others works.

Some educators who blog about copyright issues helped me formulate my own thinking.

Doug Johnson, wrote a four part series called Changing How We Teach Copyright. He says that we should change the focus of copyright instruction from what is forbidden to what is permitted.

Educators need to know the “outer limits,” not just the “safe harbors” of the use of copyrighted materials – and allow their students to explore those outer limits as well.

This means to me that as long as I’m not robbing someone of their livelihood, I have freedom as a teacher to to use creative works for the purpose of teaching and learning.

I also have great responsibility. Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano  writes extensively on this issue. She calls for educators to take responsibility for teaching our students about copyright laws and the use of Creative Commons. It’s never too early to start teaching them that something created by someone belongs to them and it should never be taken and used without their permission or without giving credit.

How will I introduce these ideas to my third grade class?

Introduce students to the idea of plagiarism.

Common Sense Media “Who’s Is it Anyways” Lesson

Encourage my students to take their own photos and make their works available for others to remix. Be producers not only consumers!

Teach my students how to cite and hyperlink their sources. Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano has some very helpful tips.

How to Cite Images in Your Blog

Citing an Image is Not Enough!

So You Want (Have) to Create Something?

Best Practices for Attribution-Creative Commons

Common Sense Media “How to Cite a Site” Lesson

There are many different ways to cite an image. Here is a resource I created to teach my students how to cite images that they embed. I might update it later to fit the Creative Commons suggestions for best practices, but for now I think it’s enough for third grade. Let me know if this resource is helpful to you or you have any suggestions for how to improve it. Thanks!


Online Privacy: What’s the Big Deal?

Greg Ferenstein in his article, The Birth and Death of Privacy: 3000 Years of History Told Through 46 Images, argues that

Privacy, as it is conventionally understood, is only about 150 years old. Most humans living throughout history had little concept of privacy in their tiny communities. Sex, breastfeeding, and bathing were shamelessly performed in front of friends and family.

The lesson from 3,000 years of history is that privacy has almost always been a back-burner priority. Humans invariably choose money, prestige or convenience when it has conflicted with a desire for solitude.

In general, I think of myself as an open person, with few secrets, who enjoys living in community and sharing life with others. I see my Facebook page and all my social media platforms as extensions of who I am as a person. I try to live my life as holistically as possible. Who I am online for the most part reflects who I am as a person, what I value and what I care about. So if I don’t have anything to hide, why all the hype about the need for online privacy? What’s the big deal?

I decided to do some research and find out why some people are set on sounding the alarm bells to wake us up to pay attention to our online privacy. Here is what I learned that I didn’t know before:

Online privacy allows us to be safe, curious, and authentic on the Internet.

To promote it’s encryption campaign, Mozilla created a video that takes a light hearted approach to make a serious point: privacy matters and the Internet should remain a safe place, capable of tremendous good.

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When we lose privacy, we potentially close the door to open democratic political discourse.

In his article, Privacy and Why it Really Matters, Marco Polojarvi argues that there is a fine line between analytics and information processing for the purpose of advertisement and data harvesting to build individual profiles without those individuals’ supervision. Polojarvi answers the question of why we should care about this fine line and discusses the hidden consequences for losing privacy in a democracy. His overall point is that we should be aware of the potential for our online information to be misconstrued or misinterpreted to create a data profile that might not not reflect us or our motives. He talks about the rise of predictive policing and gives an example of  50 potential protesters arrested in the UK at a Royal Wedding. He argues that this type of surveillance by the government will only lead to more underground forms of communication and a rise in acts of terrorism. Therefore, we should actively seek to ensure our online privacy.

Companies like Flickr, Facebook, Google, Instagram and Snapchat promise secrecy and control but what they should do and are not doing is clearly, simply and honestly explaining to their customers how their data might be shared.

In an article from De Correspondent, designer, Dimitry Tokmetzis, describes a disturbing social experiment in which he and Yuri Veerman purchased photos of random children that were available on Flickr and used the photos to create mugs and sell them in their online store, KoppieKoppie . They were making the point that when average customers don’t pay attention to the fine print and licensing details, their photos and information can be used without their knowledge and even photos of their own children can end up on random coffee mugs being sold around the world. While customers should be more informed and aware, Tokmetzis also claims that companies like Facebook, Google, Snapchat, etc should be required to clearly explain to customers how their data can and will be shared.

I can and should take some simple steps to ensure my online privacy and security.

In my research I came across many articles with complicated and confusing ways to ensure my privacy and I knew I would never follow through with them. Here is an article by Tobias Van Schneider with four basic simple steps we can take to ensure our online privacy.

  1. Enable 2-factor authentification
  2. Use a password manager
  3. Use a VPN service
  4. Cover your cameras

While I don’t have much to hide, now I am much more informed about the concern for online privacy and the need to take some simple steps to protect my right to privacy. What are the simple things you do to protect your privacy?







What is Your Sentence?


Digital Footprint
Some rights reserved by Jeffery Sofroniou

I’m wondering about how to talk with third graders about their digital footprint. I mean is this something that they really need to think about right now while they are so young? The minimum age to sign up for most social media sites is 13, so isn’t that the age when most young people really begin leaving digital footprints?

As an educator I’ve always been hesitant to leave digital footprints and these are the types of negative thoughts usually swirling around in my mind:

“Be careful what you post, it will be there forever and ruin your life!!!”

“It’s better to stay hidden so your identity can’t be stolen or manipulated”

“Keep it private, who knows who’s out there that might harm you.”

But, after this weeks readings, I understand for the first time how important it is to develop a positive online identity and help my students do the same.

In her TED talk, Alexandra Samuel, talks about a time when she was researching boots to purchase for herself and how, all of a sudden, boot advertisements were showing up everywhere in all her networked sites. Her point is that every time we search for something on Amazon or Google, these searches follow us and suggest other links that begin to leave digital footprints. Did she really want to be known as a person obsessed with boots?

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Her conclusion is that our focus should NOT be on obsessing and worrying about our online identity but PURPOSEFULLY creating a POSITIVE online identity. We should embrace the idea that our online identity is indeed just as REAL as our offline identity, therefore we should start living our online lives as though they matter and can make a positive impact in this world.

So back to my original question, are third graders too young to think about their digital footprints? If I want their footprints to be positive, it’s never too early to start talking about how they can develop a positive online identity. According the article Teaching Kids to Manage their Digital Footprint by Lisa Nielsen , it’s not really about staying hidden or private but more about being authentic, knowing myself,  knowing what I am passionate about and making sure that my online identity is a reflection of my authentic self. It starts with questions of

Who am I?

What do I care about?

What do I stand for?

It is not too early for third graders to begin asking those questions about themselves.

Four things we can do to help elementary students understand what digital footprints are and develop positive online identities:

  • Help them understand that for now, since they are young, they need to keep information about themselves private. They shouldn’t share their full name, address, telephone number, age or birthday, or school. A video like this one from Common Sense Media is a great tool to help students understand this.
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  • Help them understand that as long as they keep their important information private and they have permission from their teacher and parents, they can post photos, videos, or a blog that reflect their personalities, passions and creativity. They can see some profiles of children on who, without using their private information, showcase their creativity and positivity.
  •  Show videos of other young people who have made a positive contribution to the world. I am planning on using videos from Disney’s Citizen Kids to help them understand that ordinary children, doing ordinary things, can make extraordinary changes in our world.
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  • Help students begin to ask themselves what they care about. This simple video by Daniel Pink encourages us to ask What is my sentence? How can I help my students create their “sentence?” What do they care about? What do they stand for? These are are very abstract ideas for young children, but they are not too young to begin thinking about them and articulating them. I came across a Heart Mapping and Writing lesson plan by Georgia Heard that is something I want to try with my students to help them discern their values and passions.

This video made me think about my own life. What is my sentence? Do my social media sites reflect this sentence?

What about you? What is your sentence? I’d love to know what it is and why? Please comment below!