The Path to Digital Citizenship | Edutopia

I’ve written and taught about digital citizenship for several years. And, while the term is new in our lexicon, the meaning spans generations. The simple acts of carrying oneself in a civil, appropriate manner are skillsets that have been integrated into every classroom since the very first school. Many would argue that digital citizenship is simply a buzzword and nothing dramatically new. While the underlying meaning is familiar, the medium by which adults and students interact has changed dramatically.

Digital Health and Wellness

Learning digital citizenship is a fairly new category in the student course list. In the past, students were taught to be civil and work toward being an impactful citizen in their society. The principle of citizenship is entwined in many school mission statements as well. In the past, bullying, teasing and fighting were seen as «childlike» behaviors and addressed as necessary. Students were told at an early age to play nicely together, to share and not to call each other names. While these events still happened, they did not have the reach and appeal of today.

With the launch of data networks, almost ubiquitous wifi and the smartphone, adults and students alike now share a platform for consuming and authoring information like our society has never seen. Today’s networked world gives everyone a voice, a digital space, a bullhorn to be heard. While this freedom of expression is nothing new to our society, the medium is taking us into uncharted territory.

So how do we integrate standards and skillsets that prepare our K-12 students for an interconnected, digital world that can often be incendiary and hurtful? The unfortunate answer is that we are already too late in some regards. Applications and the pace of technology have outpaced our ability, as parents and teachers, to keep up with what our students can access.

However, this is not to say that we can’t teach our students proper digital health and wellness skills. One of the key issues is teaching kids offline before they jump into an online world. They need to know the harsh realities of a networked world, to discern between their real offline personality and tailored online personality, and to understand that both personalities should be the same. They still need to know how to play nicely together, share, not tease or say hurtful things — and they need to transfer these offline skills to a digital space as well. In short, students must understand that there should be no difference between how they act online and how they act offline.

Elementary Skillsets

Here are some quick ideas for integrating these basic skillsets into the elementary grades:

  • Have students write a letter to each other, and then to someone beyond the school. This reinforces the transferable skill of writing offline to writing online. It’s a great way of introducing email and understanding that the digital world also speaks English and uses the conventions and formatting of proper grammar.
  • Have students create something on a large easel paper (a drawing, poem, short sentence, etc.). Once completed, ask them walk around the room as if they were in a museum and make comments on each creation. This is a great way of having students comment in public and provide authentic feedback that is constructive and not hurtful.
  • Digital spaces should not be painted as dark, negative environments. Students should understand how great opportunities might come their way when they construct and maintain a positive digital presence. Students entering middle school should be able to:
    • Generate safe usernames
    • Discuss the difference between personal and private information
    • Explain why there are logins and passwords for some hardware, software and websites
    • Describe why stealing information and other people’s creations is the same as stealing tangible items
    • Use technology to explore personal interests
    • Demonstrate to others how to use technology tools in ways that assist rather than prevent learning

This list is not set in stone, but it was created collaboratively with my tech team colleagues at Burlington Public Schools and Groton-Dunstable Regional School District. It offers a good foundation of what elementary level students should be expected to know as they move up to middle school. As students climb through the grade levels, these skills increase. Once in middle school students should begin to understand:

  • How to start gathering research both online and offline
  • How to interact within digital spaces (i.e. a Google doc, Google site, or Edmodo LMS)
  • How to properly find and cite digital media (creative commons, Google docs, research tools)
  • How to discern between positive and negative use of digital spaces and the possible consequences of inappropriate behavior

By the time students get to secondary grade levels, they should be expected to exhibit positive and consistent digital citizenship skills. I’ve always liked the idea that students graduating middle school should have to pass a digital citizenship «driver’s ed» course. This test would demonstrate understanding of the basic standards of what it means to be a digital citizen. At schools that employ 1:1 programs, this would be a good way of obtaining the keys to your device. At Burlington, we made sure that every student and parent met with the administration and tech team over the summer (usually during scheduled days in August) to review and sign our acceptable use policy, get a brief presentation on our systems and parameters, and ask questions.

An Ethical Mission

While we, as educators and parents, can make the best efforts to educate our students on digital health and wellness skills, we know that some may slip through the cracks. You can tell a classroom of 30 students to always look both ways before crossing the street, and one out of that 30 will always run without looking. In my experience creating and teaching a digital literacy course (1), I’ve seen this come true too many times. My point here is that we must continue our mission of educating students, not solely on academic merits, but on ethical merits as well. Promote and model good uses of digital spaces in your classroom and school. Building a culture of digital health and wellness across a school district will insure that our students carry out the missions posted on our walls.

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The Path to Digital Citizenship | Edutopia.

10 Ways to Teach Innovation | MindShift

By Thom Markham

One overriding challenge is now coming to the fore in public consciousness: We need to reinvent just about everything. Whether scientific advances, technology breakthroughs, new political and economic structures, environmental solutions, or an updated code of ethics for 21st century life, everything is in flux—and everything demands innovative, out of the box thinking.

The burden of reinvention, of course, falls on today’s generation of students. So it follows that education should focus on fostering innovation by putting curiosity, critical thinking, deep understanding, the rules and tools of inquiry, and creative brainstorming at the center of the curriculum.

This is hardly the case, as we know. In fact, innovation and the current classroom model most often operate as antagonists. The system is evolving, but not quickly enough to get young people ready for the new world. But I do believe there are a number of ways that teachers can bypass the system and offer students the tools and experiences that spur an innovative mindset. Here are ten ideas:

Move from projects to Project Based Learning. Most teachers have done projects, but the majority do not use the defined set of methods associated with high-quality PBL. These methods include developing a focused question, using solid, well crafted performance assessments, allowing for multiple solutions, enlisting community resources, and choosing engaging, meaningful themes for projects. PBL offers the best method we have presently for combining inquiry with accountability, and should be part of every teacher’s repertoire. See my website or the Buck Institute for methods.

Teach concepts, not facts. Concept-based instruction overcomes the fact-based, rote-oriented nature of standardized curriculum. If your curriculum is not organized conceptually, use you own knowledge and resources to teach ideas and deep understanding, not test items.

Distinguish concepts from critical information. Preparing students for tests is part of the job. But they need information for a more important reason: To innovate, they need to know something. The craft precedes the art. Find the right blend between open-ended inquiry and direct instruction.

Make skills as important as knowledge. Innovation and 21st century skills are closely related. Choose several 21st century skills, such as collaboration or critical thinking, to focus on throughout the year. Incorporate them into lessons. Use detailed rubrics to assess and grade the skills.

Form teams, not groups. Innovation now emerges from teams and networks—and we can teach students to work collectively and become better collective thinkers. Group work is common, but team work is rare. Some tips: Use specific methods to form teams; assess teamwork and work ethic; facilitate high quality interaction through protocols and critique; teach the cycle of revision; and expect students to reflect critically on both ongoing work and final products. For peer collaboration rubrics, see these free PBL Tools.

Use thinking tools. Hundreds of interesting, thought provoking tools exist for thinking through problems, sharing insights, finding solutions, and encouraging divergent solutions. Use Big Think tools or the Visible Thinking Routines developed at Harvard’s Project Zero.

Use creativity tools. Industry uses a set of cutting edge tools to stimulate creativity and innovation. As described in books such as Gamestorming or Beyond Words, the tools include playful games and visual exercises that can easily be used in the classroom.

Reward discovery. Innovation is mightily discouraged by our system of assessment, which rewards the mastery of known information. Step up the reward system by using rubrics with a blank column to acknowledge and reward innovation and creativity. I call it the Breakthrough column. All of the rubrics on the PBL Tools section of my website have a breakthrough column.

Make reflection part of the lesson. Because of the coverage imperative, the tendency is to move on quickly from the last chapter and begin the next chapter. But reflection is necessary to anchor learning and stimulate deeper thinking and understanding. There is no innovation without rumination.

Be innovative yourself. This is the kicker, because innovation requires the willingness to fail, a focus on fuzzy outcomes rather than standardized measures, and the bravery to resist the system’s emphasis on strict accountability. But the reward is a kind of liberating creativity that makes teaching exciting and fun, engages students, and—most critical—helps students find the passion and resources necessary to design a better life for themselves and others.

This post originally appeared on ThomMarkham’s blog.Thom Markham, Ph.D., is a psychologist and school redesign consultant who assists teachers in designing high quality, rigorous projects that incorporate 21st century skills and the principles of youth development. He is also the author of the Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for innovation and inquiry for k-12 teachers.

10 Ways to Teach Innovation | MindShift.

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish — and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational «death valley» we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility.

Smart Strategies That Help Students Learn How to Learn | MindShift

What’s the key to effective learning? One intriguing body of research suggests a rather riddle-like answer: It’s not just what you know. It’s what you know about what you know.

To put it in more straightforward terms, anytime a student learns, he or she has to bring in two kinds of prior knowledge: knowledge about the subject at hand (say, mathematics or history) and knowledge about how learning works. Parents and educators are pretty good at imparting the first kind of knowledge. We’re comfortable talking about concrete information: names, dates, numbers, facts. But the guidance we offer on the act of learning itself—the “metacognitive” aspects of learning—is more hit-or-miss, and it shows.

In our schools, “the emphasis is on what students need to learn, whereas little emphasis—if any—is placed on training students how they should go about learning the content and what skills will promote efficient studying to support robust learning,” writes John Dunlosky, professor of psychology at Kent State University in Ohio, in an article just published in American Educator. However, he continues, “teaching students how to learn is as important as teaching them content, because acquiring both the right learning strategies and background knowledge is important—if not essential—for promoting lifelong learning.”

“Teaching students how to learn is as important as teaching them content.”

Research has found that students vary widely in what they know about how to learn, according to a team of educational researchers from Australia writing last year in the journal Instructional Science. Most striking, low-achieving students show “substantial deficits” in their awareness of the cognitive and metacognitive strategies that lead to effective learning—suggesting that these students’ struggles may be due in part to a gap in their knowledge about how learning works.

Teaching students good learning strategies would ensure that they know how to acquire new knowledge, which leads to improved learning outcomes, writes lead author Helen Askell-Williams of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. And studies bear this out. Askell-Williams cites as one example a recent finding by PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment, which administers academic proficiency tests to students around the globe, and place American students in the mediocre middle. “Students who use appropriate strategies to understand and remember what they read, such as underlining important parts of the texts or discussing what they read with other people, perform at least 73 points higher in the PISA assessment—that is, one full proficiency level or nearly two full school years—than students who use these strategies the least,” the PISA report reads.

[RELATED: What Students Should Know About Their Own Brains]

In their own study, Askell-Williams and her coauthors took as their subjects 1,388 Australian high school students. They first administered an assessment to find out how much the students knew about cognitive and metacognitive learning strategies—and found that their familiarity with these tactics was “less than optimal.”

Students can assess their own awareness by asking themselves which of the following learning strategies they regularly use (the response to each item is ideally “yes”):

• I draw pictures or diagrams to help me understand this subject.

• I make up questions that I try to answer about this subject.

• When I am learning something new in this subject, I think back to what I already know about it.

• I discuss what I am doing in this subject with others.

• I practice things over and over until I know them well in this subject.

• I think about my thinking, to check if I understand the ideas in this subject.

• When I don’t understand something in this subject I go back over it again.

• I make a note of things that I don’t understand very well in this subject, so that I can follow them up.

• When I have finished an activity in this subject I look back to see how well I did.

• I organize my time to manage my learning in this subject.

• I make plans for how to do the activities in this subject.

Askell-Williams and her colleagues found that those students who used fewer of these strategies reported more difficulty coping with their schoolwork. For the second part of their study, they designed a series of proactive questions for teachers to drop into the lesson on a “just-in-time” basis—at the moments when students could use the prompting most. These questions, too, can be adopted by any parent or educator to make sure that children know not just what is to be learned, but how.

• What is the topic for today’s lesson?

• What will be important ideas in today’s lesson?

• What do you already know about this topic?

• What can you relate this to?

• What will you do to remember the key ideas?

• Is there anything about this topic you don’t understand, or are not clear about?

Smart Strategies That Help Students Learn How to Learn | MindShift.

Flipped Classroom 2.0: Competency Learning With Videos | MindShift

he flipped classroom model generated a lot of excitement initially, but more recently some educators — even those who were initial advocates — have expressed disillusionment with the idea of assigning students to watch instructional videos at home and work on problem solving and practice in class. Biggest criticisms: watching videos of lectures wasn’t all that revolutionary, that it perpetuated bad teaching and raised questions about equal access to digital technology.

Now flipped classroom may have reached equilibrium, neither loved nor hated, just another potential tool for teachers — if done well. “You never want to get stuck in a rut and keep doing the same thing over and over,” said Aaron Sams, a former high school chemistry teacher turned consultant who helped pioneer flipped classroom learning in an edWeb webinar. “The flipped classroom is not about the video,” said Jonathan Bergmann, Sams’ fellow teacher who helped fine tune and improve a flipped classroom strategy. “It’s about the active engaged stuff you can do in your class.”

“There is no place for them to hide. They had to converse with me and tell me when they were ready to be assessed on something.”


The two teachers admit when they started flipping their classrooms they put everything into video form. Now, they’ve taken a step back and realized some things shouldn’t be in lecture form, and therefore shouldn’t be videos either. Instead, the two teachers have embraced what they call mastery learning, with an emphasis on students taking control of their own learning. Instructional videos are an optional part of a bigger move towards asynchronous learning.

“The best use of class time is to meet the individual needs of each learner, not driving the class with predetermined curriculum,” Sams said. So he and Bergmann decided to make watching the video lectures optional. The videos are available, but if students felt they could learn it better in some other way, they’re encouraged to do what works best for them.

[RELATED READING: Can TED Talks Really Work in the Classroom?]

“One of the most important skills that any student can learn is where to go for information and resources,” Sams said. Instead of following a rigid curriculum, the two teachers decided on the key learning objectives of the class — the things they felt their students really needed to know –and structured the class around those. Then they offered students a menu of resources that included instructional video, some sort of practice and links to the corresponding section of a textbook. The teachers became resources and helped provide benchmarks to keep students on track.

The educators say this method is working for them because they’ve decided to make their classrooms mastery based, whereby “a student gets to the end of some learning unit and must pass whatever kind of assessment you have before he can move on,” Sams said — very much like competency-based learning. “There is no place for them to hide. They had to converse with me and tell me when they were ready to be assessed on something,” Sams said. When he taught in a more traditional way, Sams admitted there were students he hardly knew.


Working with a mastery-based model means students are not all learning the same thing at the same time. Bergmann said the first five minutes of class are essential to setting the class into productive motion by quickly assessing where students are and directing them to various stations around the room. ”Your class looks like organized chaos,” Bergmann said. “It’s very powerful.”

 “The flipped classroom is not about the video. It’s about the active engaged stuff you can do in your class.”


Students are scattered around the room learning a topic in their own way and teachers are walking around talking to students, answering questions and checking in on their progress. There’s no assigned homework, unless a student feels he needs to do some extra work to understand a concept. “The kids who are going to get most of my time are the kids who need it,” said Sams. “It’s the kids who are struggling or the kids who need me hovering over their shoulder.”

Sams and Bergmann soon realized that effective flipped classrooms didn’t include videos of science demonstrations. That’s the most exciting part of science and kids should get to see it up close. Since students were moving at different paces, Sams and Bergmann had to demonstrate the same thing multiple times. “We did demos for just a handful of students,” said Sams. “It was a far more intimate environment so we could converse with kids about what was going on.”

Disciplinary issues also diminished significantly. “When I was the guy up front, all the attention was supposed to be on me and it was really easy for a disruptive kid to pull the attention to himself,” said Sams. With everyone working on their own projects, one kid has much less power to disrupt.


One of the most challenging parts of a messy, asynchronous classroom is that kids aren’t all ready to be assessed at the same time, and when they do take a test, they might not pass. Sams’ and Bergmann’s chemistry classes have formative assessments, constant checking in and talking about work with students on a daily basis.

The two teachers also spent two years building up a store of test questions in Moodle, a free learning management system that randomly generates tests. Those who fail the test can take another to prove mastery.

It took a lot of work to build up the system that now works smoothly and the process revealed challenges in the mastery model. “One of the dark sides of mastery is the demoralizing effect,” Bergmann said. He had students that he knew understood the material because of his daily work with them, but who couldn’t pass the tests. That’s a frustrating and demotivating experience for a student.

Sams and Bergmann turned to the Universal Design for Learning, a set of curriculum principles that maintains students need more than one way to learn information and more than one way to demonstrate knowledge. Following the second principle, the two teachers allowed their students to show they understood the material any way they wanted. Sams said he received songs, welding projects and even hand-drawn graphic novels. He admits those didn’t help the students take standardized tests, but they showed chemistry understanding, his main goal.

If this all sounds messy, it is. Sams and Bergmann are the first to admit that there are challenges, especially around grading. But, they’ve discovered a way to take flipped learning to another level, offering it as one option in a smorgasbord of instructional materials and letting students have the autonomy to choose what works best for them. Kids got behind, but the teachers checked their progress along the way and structured the course so that the most necessary information was in the first four sections, with nice-to-know material in the fifth section.

“We would rather our kids actually know 80 percent of the content, instead of being exposed to 100 percent of the content,” said Bergmann.

Flipped Classroom 2.0: Competency Learning With Videos | MindShift.