Category Archives: Digital Citizenship

Digital Storytelling and Creative Communication: Does One Help Develop the Other?

Alan Alda, from M*A*S*H*, knows how to tell a story.  In one of his presentations, he asks a young woman to the stage.  Alda then asks the young woman to carry an empty glass across the stage.  She stares at the him awkwardly and does it without much fanfare. Alda then walks to her with a pitcher of water.  He pours water into the empty glass and fills to the brim. He asks her to carry the glass to the other side of the stage. “Don’t spill a drop of water or your entire village will die.”- he says.  The young woman, slowly, deliberately walks across the stage. She carefully gauges the level of water in the glass as she takes each step. The audience is silent, enraptured in the backstory of the overfilled glass.  They are interested and invested in the story. (Watch Alan Alda explain the importance of storytelling in his video: “Knowing How to Tell a Good Story is Like Having Mind Control.”)

Stories are powerful. Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication that we have.  We are attracted to stories because they are human, (Alda, 2017). Stories relay information about human nature, accomplishments, challenges, and discoveries. They make us feel part of a community and help evoke empathy, (Dillion, 2014).  According to Alan Alda, we like stories because we think in stories, particularly if the story has an obstacle. Like in the example above, we are interested in listening to the attempts overcoming the obstacle, (Alda, 2017).

Stories can also be powerful in the classroom.  A good story helps shape mental models, motivates and persuades others, and teaches lessons, (Dillion, 2014).  There are many ways to deliver a story but I have been gaining significant interest in digital storytelling. Technology is not stoic but rather highly personalizable as people are discovering unique ways to learn, entertain, network, and build relationships using technology, (Robin, 2008).  It is not surprising then that people are using technology to also share their story. Digital storytelling is technique that I discovered as I was exploring problem based learning (PBL) to develop innovation skills.  In that blog post, I explained that digital storytelling was one mode students could employ to “solve” a problem in PBL by creating an artifact. I realize that this wasn’t directly related to my inquiry at the time, because problem-based learning is more focused on the process of problem-solving rather than the artifact itself.  Despite this, I found the idea of digital storytelling interesting and wanted to revisit it. “Storytelling” in particular, is a buzzword that circles back in unexpected mediums. For example, my husband attended a conference that explored storytelling through data, in other words, how to design graphs, charts, and other visual representations of data that share a story without any significant description or explanation. Yet these graphs communicate important information. That then got me pondering about how digital storytelling can be used to teach students to creativity communicate information either about themselves or about a topic using technology.

So then how can students use digital storytelling for the purposes of creative communication? This question relates to ISTE Student Standard 6: Creative Communicator in which, “students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.”  Digital storytelling is one vehicle in which students can use to express and communicate clearly.  Interestingly, the idea of digital storytelling isn’t new, it was originally developed in the 1980’s but is experiencing a renaissance in the 2000’s, (Robin, 2008). Not only can digital storytelling be a medium for learning, but also different types of information can be relayed using this technique including personal narrative (what most non-ed professionals use), stories on informing/instructing, and lastly, stories that examine historical events, (Robin, 2008).

Stories must be well-crafted in order for them to be effective and memorable. Students can deliver a story by investigating a topic, write a script, develop their story, and tie it all together using multimedia, (Robin, 2008).  Blogs, podcasts, wikis, and other mediums like pinterest can be used to convey a story simply,(University of Houston, 2018). To help students get started, the University of Houston’s Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling webpage offers great information such as timing, platforms, and examples of artifacts.

Figure depicting the digital storytelling process.
Figure 1.1 The Digital Storytelling Process

Before diving into a story, the most important elements are explored in its theoretical framework.  This framework includes the seven-elements needed in order for each story to be impactful. Figure 1.2 below summarizes the seven key elements.  

Infographic describing the 7 elements of digital storytelling
Figure 1.2 The 7 Elements of Digital Storytelling

Just as Alan Alda explores in his video, the seven-elements emphasize that good stories must capture the audience’s attention, explore obstacles or serious issues that the audience can connect with, and must be personal in order to enhance and accelerate comprehension, (Robin, 2008). By allowing students to engage in digital storytelling, they are also developing crucial 21st century skills: digital, global, technology, visual, and information literacy.

Tying it all together: How does digital storytelling fulfill the requirements for the ISTE student standard on creative communicator?

As Robin alludes to, it can be challenging to distinguish the various types of stories because oftentime they overlap, particularly considering the personal narrative, (Robin, 2008). A good story is relatable, we can put ourselves into the shoes of the protagonist.  The use of technology is just another medium we can use to communicate our stories. By implementing digital storytelling in the classroom, it would allow for transformation (SAMR) of existing assignments and lectures.  Here are some additional thoughts on how this technique can help students become creative communicators:

  • ISTE 6A: “Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication”.  Platforms such as blogs, podcasts, in addition to tools such as cameras, and editing software are all components of digital storytelling. Allowing students to evaluate the various platforms and tools in relation to their desired outcome, they would be developing digital, technology, and visual literacy.
  • ISTE 6B: “Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations”. Though the most common application of digital storytelling would be to create an original artifact, Robin provides an example of remixing in recreating historical events by using photos, or old headlines to provide depth and meaning to the facts students are learning in class, (Robin, 2008). By curating and remixing existing artifacts, students would develop global, digital, visual, and information literacy.
  • ISTE 6C: “Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations”. This idea goes back to the example I shared of storytelling using data (graphs/charts/figures) but it can also include infographics. Depicting complex data through an interesting visual medium engages digital, global, technology, visual, and information literacy.
  • ISTE 6D: “Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences”. The basis of storytelling is that it is meant to be shared with others.  If the story doesn’t match the audience, it will not be impactful or important. This is a point the 7-elements of digital storytelling stresses. Understanding and crafting stories for a specific audience demonstrates digital and global literacy.

Good digital storytelling can allow students become creative communicators.  Using technology can reach audiences in many ways never thought of before while still sharing the human experience.  As Robin puts it, in a world where we are receiving thousands of messages a day across many different platforms, stories become engaging, driving, and a powerful way to share a message in a short period of time, (Robin, 2008).


[big think channel]. (2017, July 18). Knowing how to tell a good story is like having mind control: Alan Alda. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Dillon, B. (2014). The power of digital story. Edutopia. Retrieved from

International Society for Technology in Education, (2017).  The ISTE standards for students. Retrieved from:

Robin, BR., (2008). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory into Practice, 47: 220-228. DOI:1080/00405840802153916

University of Houston, (2018). Educational use of digital storytelling. Retrieved from:

Rethinking Hands on Math with Understanding by Design

This quarter for our class EDTC6102 we had to create or modify a lesson that integrated technology in a meaningful way using the Understanding by Design model by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. After being assigned this project, I knew that I wanted to pick an upcoming unit that is apart of the school districts curriculum for math. I wanted to explore ways to enhance the math my students were already receiving. The unit I decided to revamp using the Understanding by Design model is Composing and Decomposing numbers to 10.

Understanding by Design Process

Stages of Backward Design

Stage 1- Identify Desired Results

Stage 2- Determine Acceptable Evidence

For this unit I wanted to create performance tasks that allows for students to show their understanding in multiple ways including using technology.

Performance Tasks:

-Students will create visual representations of decomposition patterns and will record the corresponding addition sentences. Students will use unifix cubes to show the different ways to make a number (example: the number 8). Then students will create a visual using colored squares to represent the cubes. Once students have shown their patterns, they will write the addition number sentences to represent their decomposition. Students can choose an number 2-10 to show decomposition patterns.

-During math rotations students will use the classroom SMART board to solve decomposition problems. Students will show work using a different colored pen per student.

-Students will use to create an interactive whiteboard to teach others about part-part-whole relationships. Once students create their interactive whiteboard they will share it with the teacher.

Other: Students will also complete an end of topic assessment, along with quick checks throughout the lesson to check for understanding. At the end of the entire unit students will complete a self-assessment of their decomposition visual using a rubric. Students will then ranking their understanding using of the topic. To see an example click here.

Stage3 – Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction

Digital Citizenship-

When introducing technology to students it is important for students to become digital citizens before interacting online. With my students being only in Kindergarten, I am usually the first person to teach them technology standards. ISTE has seven student standards. Standard 2 Digital Citizenship is stated as “Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical”. Before teaching my Rethinking Hands on Math unit, I first need to teach my students about being safe on the internet, especially if they are going to interact with the site With our discussion on digital citizenship students will become aware of their role with safe, ethical, positive, and legal behavior when using technology.

Six Facets of Understanding-

  • Can explain—via generalizations or principles, providing justified and systematic accounts of phenomena, facts, and data; make insightful connections and provide illuminating examples or illustrations. 
  • Can interpret—tell meaningful stories; offer apt translations; provide a revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make the object of understanding personal or accessible through images, anecdotes, analogies, and models.
  • Can apply—effectively use and adapt what we know in diverse and real contexts—we can “do” the subject.
  • Have perspective—see and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture.
  • Can empathize—find value in what others might find odd, alien, or implausible; perceive sensitively on the basis of prior direct experience.
  •  Have self-knowledge—show metacognitive awareness; perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections, and habits of mind that both shape and impede our own understanding; are aware of what we do not understand; reflect on the meaning of learning and experience. (p.84)

During this unit students will be hitting all 6 facets of understanding. When making their visuals and creating interactive whiteboards to teach others this concept they are explaining what decomposition is, they can interpret their work to make it personal and available for others. Students will apply when creating their interactive whiteboard to teach the class this concept. When their interactive whiteboards are shared among the class they have perspective and can empathize. Finally, students will have self-knowledge when they complete their self-assessment of their visual and overall understanding of the content.


The Understanding by Design model was first introduced to me when I was studying for my undergrad. While I practiced using this model in college classes, I got away from using it during full time teaching. When this current course brought Understanding by Design back into my life I remembered how great it really is. Using this model allowed for me to step back and really think about the content I was teaching my students. I felt like I was often just using the curriculum assigned by the district rather than looking at what I wanted my students to get out of the lessons I was teaching. With knowing the desired results of a lesson or unit helps make these lessons/units more meaningful for students and allows for them to know the purpose of each lesson.  I really liked how this process allowed for me to integrate new learning opportunities for my students by using technology. I also really appreciate how this model made me think about what I wanted students to produce to show their understanding. In the past students have complete math magazines for each lesson, now I have allowed the students to demonstrate their learning in a personalized way. I love this simply because I am able to connect with all of the different learning styles my class has to offer.

Sources- (2017) ISTE Standards for Students. (Retrieved on 2018, March 17) from:

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Incorporating Technology using Backwards Design

This quarter our culminating project for course EDTC 6102 (Teaching, Learning, and Assessment 1) in the Digital Education Leadership program required us to read the text, Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and create a lesson or unit of study incorporating technology in a meaningful way using backwards design as detailed in the book. While I have created thousands of lesson plans in my teaching career, the concept of backwards design was fairly new to me.  While I like to think that most of my lessons are focused on and constructed around the learning objective, having the opportunity to really dive into the details of this concept of lesson planning and be forced to explicitly plan a lesson or unit step by step following Wiggins and McTighe’s framework was very valuable and allowed for a great deal of reflection on my own teaching practice and curriculum planning in general.  I chose to explore how our youngest students first begin to understand coding and computer programming, both how it works and why it is important. This learning experience has students using age-appropriate robots (Code-a-pillar, Bee-Bot, or Code-and-go Mouse) that must be programmed to run.  Students are required to problem solve, design, reflect, and be creative through the learning activities listed below.


Introducing Coding to Primary Students Using Robots


Learning Plan

1. Pre-Assessment. What is a robot? 

2. Group discussion:  What do you know about robots? Where have you seen one? What do they do? Can they do different things? Can they help us? Share our pre-assessments.

3. Introduce the Code-a-pillar, Bee-Bot, or Code-and-go Mouse. How is this the same or different from other robots we have seen or heard about?

4. How can we tell the robot how to move? “Let’s test it out several times in several ways!” “Will the same code always do the same thing? Test it out whole-class, then in small groups.

5. Make a plan for the Code-a-pillar. First “code” the robot, then predict where it will finish. Next choose (or have a peer choose) where the robot should stop at the end of the code and program the robot to get to that location.

6. De-bug. How can we make changes if the robot doesn’t do what we had planned for it to do?

7. Work in Small Groups (3-4) students to build an Obstacle Course for your robot.

8. Class Discussion: What you are all doing in coding. What is coding? Why is it important? Where it is used in your life?

9. Verbal/written and classroom observation Assessment :

  • Students will be able to verbally articulate what coding is (in 5-7 year old age appropriate vocabulary) when asked     ***This could be a writing prompt for 1st graders later in the school year
  • Students will be able to verbally articulate why coding is (in 5-7 year old age appropriate vocabulary) important for our society when asked    ***This could be a writing prompt for 1st graders later in the school year
  • Students will work in pairs (or small groups) with each partnership/group having a Code-a-pillar. They will be tasked with having their Code-a-pillars do the same program. Hopefully the students will realize that the Code-a-pillars need to have the same codes in the same sequence to run identical codes.

10. Self-Assessment

11. Reflection: Students will reflect on these learning experiences using a journal. Primary reflection journal from

12. Next Steps: curriculum: First,  Unplugged lessons (K Lesson  and 1st Lesson) and then Course A  (Kindergarten) and Course B (1st grade).


Digital Citizenship


ISTE Student Standard 2 is perhaps one of the most important standards for our students because with all the opportunities the digital world offers there is a great deal of potential for negative experiences and repercussions, especially when users are young and inexperienced.  This is why it is critical that we teach our students to “recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world” and ensure “they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical” (ISTE, 2017). With my lesson on using robots, the students are exposed to this standard when they begin to understand the “big picture” of code and programming. During our discussions about what coding is and why is is important to our world, students will recognize the opportunities of living, learning, and working in a interconnected digital world.


Reflection on the Backwards Design Process

This project was valuable to me because it required me to become a more reflective teacher.  Several times during this quarter when I was working on this project, I found myself going back to the beginning (or the end since I was working backwards) to look at the work I had done and make changes as I continued through the process.  I also liked how this process allowed the teacher to become the “designer” of the lesson. While the process was well structured, it also allowed for a great deal of creativity and professional judgement and preference. The most challenging phase for me was actually the first phase – Desired Results.  I think this was the case because it is often this phase of the lesson or unit that we, as educators, often just plug in from the list of standards we have be given for the grade and content area we are teaching. It is the part of the lesson or unit that it typically not given much thought or reflection.  For this project I focused mostly on one lesson, but I think in the future when I use Backwards Design I will plan for an entire unit or even use it to look at my curriculum map for the entire school year. I think this way of looking at learning activities and instruction would also be beneficial to students. It could help answer a lot of the “Why are we doing this?” type of questions and allow students to be involved of the design of their own learning experiences.

The Six Facets of Understanding

In their book Wiggins and McTighe write “understanding is multidimensional and complicated.  There are different types of understanding, different methods of understanding, and conceptual overlap with other intellectual targets.” Because of this complexity, Wiggins and McTighe “developed a multifaceted view of what makes up a mature understanding, a six sided view of the concept. When we truly understand, we

  • Can explain—via generalizations or principles, providing justified and systematic accounts of phenomena, facts, and data; make insightful connections and provide illuminating examples or illustrations.
  • Can interpret—tell meaningful stories; offer apt translations; provide a revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make the object of understanding personal or accessible through images, anecdotes, analogies, and models.
  • Can apply—effectively use and adapt what we know in diverse and real contexts—we can “do” the subject.
  • Have perspective—see and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture.
  • Can empathize—find value in what others might find odd, alien, or implausible; perceive sensitively on the basis of prior direct experience.
  • Have self-knowledge—show metacognitive awareness; perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections, and habits of mind that both shape and impede our own understanding; are aware of what we do not understand; reflect on the meaning of learning and experience. (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005)”

When considering my lesson on using robots to introduce primary students to coding, I feel like I touch on all of these facets.  Although my students (for this lesson) are young, ages 5-7, their ability to understand really isn’t that different from an adult.  

  • When my students code their robots they can explain why they chose the codes they did.  
  • When my students create obstacle courses for their robots they can interpret what they have learned about programming these robots.   
  • When my students debug their code they can apply what they have learned to “do” the real work (makes errors and learning from those errors).
  • When my students program the robot in two different ways (code first then predict the ending point and choose the ending point and then program the robot to get there) they have perspective to see the big picture.
  • When my students discuss what they think of when they hear the word “robot” and share their ideas with their peers they can empathize by finding value in others’ understandings and experiences.
  • When my students complete their self-assessment and reflect on the learning activity in their journals they have self-knowledge on how the learning experience impacted them.


Sources: website (Retrieved on 2018, March 10)


Gonzalez, J. (2014, June 23). Understanding by Design, Introduction and Chapters 1-4. [Blog post]. Retrieved from (2017) ISTE Standards for Students. (Retrieved on 2018, March 17) from:


Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Lessons from the Six Facets of Understanding and Backward Design Process

For the past ten weeks, my cohort and I have been exploring techniques to get more out of the classes we teach.  I have been personally exploring teaching methods that truly achieve student understanding. Interestingly, authors of the book, Understanding by Design, argue that our interpretation of the word “understanding” is narrow and doesn’t encompass the word’s full translation.  In my field of higher education, academic application of “understanding” typically means the “ability to explain”. Students who can explain demonstrate their understanding through academic performance such as achieving high test scores or through products such as essays, where they explain how things work, what they imply, and how the concepts are connected, (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).  While this skill is important, we shouldn’t rely solely on explanation to demonstrate whether or not students are understanding, as we could potentially deemphasize the other meanings that hold an equal value, (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). In fact, there are six facets of understanding which are highlighted in figure 1.1 below.

Infographic of Understanding by Design's six facets of understanding.
Figure 1.1 The Six Facets of Understanding from Understanding by Design.

One of the best practices for accomplishing student understanding (in one or multiple facets) is to lesson plan using the “backward design” approach. In this approach, educators are encouraged to look at their objectives, identify what they want students to learn and accomplish, then design a lesson plan that achieves those goals.  This lesson planning begins by first reviewing and refining objectives and/or learning outcomes. By establishing the lesson plan objectives early on, it ensures that the ultimate mission of the class is clearly defined. In other words, the objectives help set the destination of the lesson.  This step is followed by developing how these objectives/outcomes will be evaluated, setting the road map  for the learning journey.  Lastly, the actual plan with the learning activities is designed ensuring that the objectives are appropriately met, this will where the journey begins.  Figure 1.2 explores the backward design process from Understanding by Design more in-depth.

Figure describing the backward design process.
Figure 1.2 Understanding by Design’s Backward Design Process.

Implementing Backward Design

In our case, it wasn’t enough to understand what backward design is through explanation alone, our cohort was challenged to interpret and apply this design method.  We were given the option of designing a new lesson that we would use in the future, or choose an existing lesson to improve. I chose to focus on a unit from a project-based class I teach, whose main focus is mastering scientific writing while also developing research skills.  The ultimate assessment item of this unit is a final draft of the “Introduction” and “Methodology” sections of the research paper. This assessment focuses on appropriately and expertly incoportating components necessary to set the purpose and procedure of the research project.

Lesson Background. Before reaching this assessment, there are several steps that the students must accomplish.  By the time they turn in the final intro and methods draft, the students have already picked their research food (the topic of the research project and paper), created their hypothesis(es), designed their experiment, and are conducting several experiments a week. In order to successfully craft their experiment, they should have prepared a good annotated bibliography, which is the basis for the introductory section of the paper.  

In this introductory section, students develop a mini literature review exploring the properties and potential outcomes of their foods. Students understand that they are showcasing the work and results of other researchers, what literature is missing, and how their experiment contributes to the body of literature. The final paragraph introduces their experiment along with their hypothesis(es).

The methodology section of the paper is a brief, yet descriptive, mention of the procedure for producing the research food, its variations (typically students choose 2 variations), and other relevant how-to details of their experiment. The idea behind these few paragraphs is that anyone should be able to pick up their paper and clearly understand how to reproduce their experiment.

The Challenge. Historically, students struggle with the concept of a “final” draft, submitting for formal evaluation something that resembles a paper closer to a first rough draft. Students are then disappointed by their low assessment scores.

From the professor’s perspective, this assignment is frustrating to grade and disappointing to see the low quality effort from students. Despite the fact that students take an entire class dedicated to research writing prior to this class, it is evident that they have not mastered it.  In particular, they struggle with the content of these two sections. The two most common comments made in their writing is that some sections have far too much “fluff” or unnecessary explanation while other sections are too vague or lack clarity. They have a hard time writing concisely but descriptively.

From the student’s perspective (based on course evaluations and face-to-face feedback) the assignment is hard, they need more instruction on the writing process, and they have a misunderstanding of what the term “final draft” means. Students always comment that the writing portion is the most frustrating component of the course.

Students are not motivated to practice writing skills on their own though they are encouraged to write several drafts prior to the final draft due date. To help understand what content should be included, students  examine examples of scientific writing by identifying the necessary components of the intro and methods sections. Students become very good at identifying these pieces yet still struggle to apply them to their own work. This is likely because most students wait to write their first rough draft the night before the final draft is due, are not familiar with the proper draft writing process, or underestimate the difficulty of scientific writing and do not seek outside assistance. 

Revising the lesson. In an effort to resolve frustration from both the professor’s and student perspectives, my mission is to find simple, actionable solutions to address the issues present above. I would like to see students moving away from frustration to feeling challenged and having the intrinsic motivation to practice becoming great scientific writers.  One possible solution is making this draft process more collaborative. Since students become very good at identifying necessary components in the works of others, by providing more peer and instructor formative feedback, any clarity issues and missing content would be identified earlier. Students would also be encouraged to review their own work more frequently using the RISE model, addressing the issue of last-minute drafts.

By incorporating more collaboration, this provides an opportunity to focus on building digital citizenship.  In particular, I wish to address the ISTE student standard of digital citizenship that “develops safe, legal, and ethical behavior” when using technology by allowing students to write their drafts using a Google Doc collaboration, (ISTE, 2017).  Another way to implement this standard is through the curation process leading to the annotated bibliography using the web app, Diigo.  A second aspect of the digital citizenship standard I wish to address is “responsibly using and sharing intellectual property”, (ISTE, 2017).  Students will encounter this at various aspects of the class as they will rely heavily off of the works of others.

By working backwards to design a solution, I realized that all of the challenges faced by students in writing the final draft was actually pretty easy to overcome once I had all of the right tools and techniques.  My solution did involve significant re-arranging of existing helpful class topics, removal of unhelpful topics, and implementation of topics that previous students had identified as missing. Figure 1.3 summarizes the unit lesson planning with the new topics highlighted in bolded, yellow font.

Chart depicting a summary of the intro and methods unit learning and teaching activities.
Figure 1.3. Summary of the Intro and Methods Unit Learning and Teaching Activities.

As depicted by Figure 1.3 above, the concept of digital citizenship is introduced through an online literature curation process in which the students collect, organize, and annotate relevant research articles.   This new assignment is a spin-off of an existing assessment, annotated bibliography, that allows students not only to cultivate new skills, but provide a helpful tool to better capture information from the articles they read. Students are still required to submit an annotated bibliography but the artifact has been changed to include self-reflection.

The biggest change in this unit is the introduction of the three-step formative feedback process using the RISE model where students undergo peer, self, and instructor feedback.  Through this new process, it will help students write multiple drafts prior to the submission of the final draft. Sharing their work and thoughts are made simpler through the use of Google Docs.  This new collaboration effort allows students to work together and share their expertise to gain a better understanding of the draft writing process.

Final Thoughts on the Backward Design Process.

Wiggins and McTighe admit that is it difficult to follow this design process step by step without fighting the desire to skip to the next step or write one area with another in mind, (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).  This was the case for me. The objectives and the evaluation criteria were clear as they were based off of accredited standards and those featured elements of scientific writing. The challenge existed in the preparation steps necessary to help students achieve those objectives. However, the most illuminating moment was the emphasis on the evaluation process.  By taking a closer look at my unit planning and through considerable reflection, I had realized that there were missing components that were not setting up my students to achieve the desired outcomes. It was like I had the the destination in mind, I knew the road I needed to take but I forgot which vehicle was going to get me there most efficiently.  Though I did fight the urge to jump straight into lesson planning, the backward design process helped remind me of what was important for this unit and better equipped me to  address the existing problems that I was previously unsure how to solve.

What I’ve also learned to appreciate is that as an educator, you are never quite done with this process.  One benefit that I had as I was revising my unit planning was the previous feedback I received from my students.  If they hadn’t voiced their frustrations in a constructive way, I wouldn’t have been able to address these issues so specifically. I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, but rather just fix the small area that was not working. Thanks to their feedback, my design process was streamlined and poignant. As I gear up to implement these changes in the upcoming quarters, I look forward to the improved successes of my students while also being cognisant of the fact that I will, at some point, need to revisit the backward design process and make small yet significant changes again.


International Society for Technology in Education, (2017).  The ISTE standards for students. Retrieved from:

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Building Computational Thinking through a Gamified Classroom

Who says playing video games doesn’t teach you anything?  Playing and creating games could actually help students develop another 21st century skill, computational thinking (CT).  Computational thinking is  a form of problem solving that takes large, complex problems, breaks them down into smaller problems, and uses technology to help derive solution. In deriving solutions, students engage in a systematic form of problem solving that involves four steps: 1) “decomposition” where a complex problem is broken down into smaller, more manageable problems, 2) “pattern recognition” or making predictions by finding similarities and differences between the broken down components, 3) “abstraction” developing general principles for the patterns that emerge, and  4) “algorithm design”, creating step-by-step instructions to solve not only this problem but other similar problems in the future, (Google School, 2016). By engaging in computational thinking, “students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions, (ISTE, 2017).  In other words, the key to successfully following this process is that students develop their own models rather than simply applied existing models, (Google School, 2016).

Figure 1.1 Components of Computational Thinking
Figure 1.1 Components of Computational Thinking

In researching ways to apply computational thinking in the classroom, I ran across scholarly articles discussing the gamified classroom. I have always been intrigued with this concept, from my own experience students are so much more engaged during class time when the required content is converted into a game.  During these game sessions, my role changes from the the person delivering the content, to the person delivering the game (i.e. asking the questions).  The students are responsible for providing the content by providing solutions to the posed questions, thereby evoking problem-solving skills and in some cases, critical thinking skills. This idea-thread then led me to think “what are some ways that a “gamified” classroom can help develop computational thinking?”

To help answer my question, I came across two articles that pinpointed models in game-design to build computational thinking:

Article 1: Yang & Chang, 2013. Empowering students through digital game authorship: Enhancing concentration, critical thinking, and academic achievement.

Yang and Chang explore how students can increase their motivation for learning when they are allowed to design their own game given a specific topic.  During the game design process there is significant problem-solving that occurs because of the interaction and the immediate feedback the process entails.  In addition, students gain high order thinking such as building creativity, and critical thinking. The authors mention three game building software that does not require extensive coding skills: RPG Maker, Game Maker, and Scratch. During their study, the researchers investigated the effects of game design process on seventh grade biology students that were using either Flash animation (digital flash cards)  or RPG Maker.  The investigated effects included concentration, critical thinking, and academic performance. Their result demonstrated that the group using the RPG maker had significant improvements on critical thinking and academic performance, while no significant difference was noted on concentration for both groups.

Article 2: Kazimoglu, et. al., 2012.  A serious game for developing computational thinking and learning introductory computer programming.

Kazimoglu et. al. begin their inquiry by providing a few definitions.  It is important to understand the terminology they use, mainly defining any game used for educational purposes as a “serious” game.  They acknowledge that several definitions of computational thinking exist so they create their own definition that require the following elements: 1) conditional logic (true vs. false conditions); 2) building algorithms (step-by-step instructions); 3) debugging (resolving issues with the instructions); 4) simulation (modeling); and 5) distributed computation (social sharing). The authors are challenged to create a non-threatening introduction to programming unit to combat common student perception that programming is “difficult.” Kazimoglu et. al. believe that when students are allowed to engage in game design, they are motivated to learn which provokes problem solving. They take this approach to their introduction programming class where they challenge students through a series of exercises using the Robocode platform. At the end of the study, all students successfully completed the exercise, engaging in problem-solving skills.

Conclusions. Interestingly, both of these articles struggle to exactly define “computational thinking” and both mention that specific research investigating the extent to which games can develop CT is lacking.  However, what both can agree on is that CT is best developed when students are the game designers.  In order to do this, both studies involved elements of programming instruction to help students successfully build their games.

While these articles offer models into successfully implementing computational thinking through game design and creation, it was a little disheartening to discover that programming instruction was a necessary component. My inclination was to think how can these processes be implemented and/or adapted in other classroom scenarios particularly when programming instruction may or may not be feasible.  Interestingly, not all researchers agree that programming need be involved in successful CT implementation. Voogt et. al. argue that although most research on CT involves programming, because CT is a thinking skill,  it does not require programming in order to be successfully implemented, (Voogt et. al., 2015). In fact, in a literature review conducted by Voogt demonstrated that students do not automatically transfer CT skills to a non-programming context when instruction focused on programming alone. The strongest indicator of CT mastery was actually heavily dependant on instructional practices that focuses on application, (Voogt et. al., 2015).

The lack of a standard definition of computational thinking also needs to be addressed. The two articles above and the Voogt researchers agree that discrepancies exist among current definitions of computational thinking.  To avoid confusion regarding the role of programming and other such technologies, computational thinking can be simply defined as a way of processing information and tasks to solve complex problems, (Voogt et. al., 2015).  It is a way to look at similarities and relationships between a problem and follow a systematic process to reaching a solution.  Figure 1.2 summarizes this simplified process.

Figure 1.2 Simplified Computational Thinking Components
Figure 1.2 Simplified Computational Thinking Components

According to this new context, it is not necessary to program games in order for students to build computational thinking.  Allowing students to participate in systematic artifact creation will do the trick.  Some examples of artifact creation without the use of programing include: remixing music, generating animations, developing websites, and writing programs.  The main idea of this artifact creation process is that students follow procedures that can be applied to similar problems. Figure 1.3 highlights this artifact creation process.

Figure 1.3 Artifact Creation Process for Computational Thinking
Figure 1.3 Artifact Creation Process for Computational Thinking

How can this artifact creation process be used in creating gamified classroom?  To help me explore this issue, one of my colleagues suggested allowing students to develop and design their own board game. While the solution seems low-tech, others agree with this strategy.  Michele Haiken, an educational leadership for ISTE, writes about adapting “old school” games for the classroom to help develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, (Haiken, 2017).  Students can even create an online “quest,” scavenger hunt, or create a “boss event” to problem-solve computationally, (Haiken, 2017).  For more tech-y solutions, existing platforms and/or games such as GradeCraft and 3DGameLab can be used to  apply computational thinking in a gamified classroom, (Kolb, 2015). Regardless of the method used, low-tech board games or high-tech game creation through programming, allowing students to participate in the artifact creation process helps to build computational skills that they can then apply to other complex problems to create their own models.


Google School, (2016). What is computational thinking? [Youtube Video]. Retrieved from:

Haiken, M., (2017).  5 ways to gamify your classroom. Retrieved from:

International Society for Technology in Education, (2017).  The ISTE standards for students. Retrieved from:

Kazimoglu, C., et. al., (2012). A serious game for developing computational thinking and learning introductory computer programming. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 47, 1991-1999.

Kolb, L., (2015). Epic fail or win? Gamifying learning in my classroom. Retrived from:

Voogt J, et. al., (2015). Computational thinking in compulsory education: Toward an agenda for research and practice. Education and Technologies, 20(4), 715-728.

Yang, Y. C., & Chang, C. (2013). Empowering students through digital game authorship: Enhancing concentration, critical thinking, and academic achievement. Computers & Education, 68(c), 334–344.

What teachers need to learn about professional digital citizenship

The ISTE standards for Educators outline how educators can help model, support and teach digital citizenship for students. They are, as we’d hope, responsible use standards that focus on the things we do want teachers to do with technology. It uses words like “positive, socially responsible contributions”, “establish a learning culture”, “mentor students”, and “model and promote management of identity”. (See the graphic below for the full text of the Educator Standards.)

I am in full agreement that teachers need to be part of educating students about digital citizenship. In many districts it’s been a task turned over to librarians. For a long time libraries were where technology was happening and often the only place students had access to technology. However, in an age of 1:1 one devices, teachers are now in a better position to be able to address issues in the moment, spy out and use those teachable moments to teach students or reinforce digital responsibility, and they are there when the technology is being used. Librarians are still amazing resources for digital citizenship and digital and media literacy instruction. But what if we could take the task of teaching students those skills off the librarians plates and instead have them teach teachers those same skills?

I’ve been searching for a few months to try and find some resources to teach teachers about digital citizenship. I don’t mean how to teach them to teach their students, I’m talking about teaching teachers the things they need to know to keep themselves safe, protect their own digital reputations and become ethical consumers of digital information. I’m not sure its the same as just picking it up by osmosis as they are teaching students. It seems unfair but teachers, like a lot of public figures, are more in the spotlight than many other professions such as an accountant or a scientist. They work with children. There is a higher standard expected of teachers, especially in their interactions with students and parents. It’s not even enough to keep your professional and private lives separate online when everything is so searchable. So, I’d like to find some ways that I can help teachers understand their own professional responsibility when it comes to issues of social media, copyright, account privacy and other issues that could  affect them and their professional reputations.

Let’s take the ISTE for Educator Standards and see what teachers might need to know in order to be able to model and teach the standards and protect their digital reputations:

Standards 3a & 3d

These two standards are about positive relationships online and managing one’s digital footprint. We want teachers using social media. It’s hard to stay relevant and connected without a social media presence anymore, but we do need teachers to know how to keep their presence appropriate and manage their digital reputation. One interesting resource I discovered was Childnet International. Their  Social-Media-Guide-teachers-and-support-staff has some good advice about things like when it’s appropriate or not to “friend” students on social media, setting privacy settings on social media accounts and managing your professional reputation. Their online safety calendar 2017-2018 has links to video and print resources for teachers and checklists to help teachers manage their digital footprint and their social media sites. Their INSET Training also discusses issues of reporting and monitoring student behaviors. There are lots of good resources here that I will spend more time learning about and finding ways to incorporate into training for teachers.

There is also the issue of training teachers to take a closer look at the privacy policies of websites that they ask their students to sign up for. We have a responsibility to watch out for the welfare of our student’s data when they are too young to do it themselves. Becoming more familiar with what to look for in online agreements is essential. The document from the government: Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices seems like a good place to start to learn more about protecting students.

Standards 3b & 3c

The areas of being critical consumers of online content and the ethics of intellectual property rights have more in common with good practices for students but it’s incredibly tempting to “borrow” things from the internet for that lesson coming up in 15 minutes. Teachers need good instruction on copyright and fair use. Many districts are also helping teachers understand and define intellectual property rights in regards to teachers creation of content that they want to sell online. We may need some more open conversations with teachers about what belongs to the district and what belongs to teachers.

Training for teachers is beginning to take more shape in my mind. Using these resource I can hopefully get a good start on it anyway.


ISTE | Standards For Educators. (2017). Retrieved 20 February 2018, from

Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices. (2014). Washington DC. Retrieved from

School Pack for Online Safety Awareness. (2017). Childnet. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from


Social Media PD for a 21st Century Classroom

EDTC 6106 Module 3

Promoting Responsible Social Media Use

I remember 11 years ago getting a panicked phone call from a friend, asking for legal advice regarding something that happened while substitute teaching.  We both subbed in the same small district, and I was familiar with the schools, staff, etc.  She had been falsely accused of using the computer inappropriately in class and middle school students chose to fabricate a story as revenge for her sending two of their friends to the office the day before.  Due to my friend using the internet to check Facebook, which was against district policy, she was found guilty and sent home while a full investigation was underway (the accusations were a lot more severe, but she was cleared of those allegations).  Her experience led me to be a lot more cautious and aware of my actions and ended up taking her to law school.

The reason this memory comes to mind, connects with my quest to find out how districts can promote responsible social media use and support teachers with ongoing professional development. Recently I’ve been searching for guidelines and policies for staff regarding digital citizenship and social media use.  While continuing to look at  ISTE Coaching Standard 4b and best practices, I feel many PDs still fall short of supporting teacher growth and development as they focus on curriculum and student data rather than tools that support student growth and personalized learning for teachers.

Social Media Guidelines

Acceptable/responsible use policies for students using the district’s internet seems to be common place and easily found on school district websites.  However, the same policies do not seem to be publicly displayed for district employees.  For example, I can’t find anything for my district and only vaguely recall learning through word of mouth last year that Facebook was no longer blocked on school computers.  The lack of transparency in my own district may be linked to our lack of devices district-wide.  While searching other large districts where I’ve worked previously, there staff guidelines were easy to locate and help take away any question about what acceptable use looks like for teachers.

One resource I found helpful comes from New Zealand, Guideline on Ethical Use of Social Media. Looking at this resource from a PD option, I see the one page as a tool that’s user-friendly, allows collaborative discussion to occur, and serves as a starting point when discussing social media use with staff. The four categories they ask teachers to consider are their commitment to students, society, families, and the teaching profession.

How to Make Social Media Work For You

Once guidelines have been established around Social Media Use, it’s important to offer personalized learning for teachers around the app/program they are using to support students and families. This is where time to collaborate and ongoing PD are critical to successful implementation.

If school districts want to use social media and technology to promote collaboration and sharing of ideas, then time needs to be built in throughout the year for teachers to continue exploring, sharing, creating, and becoming independent users of these programs.

Referring back to my previous posts this winter on Motivational Factors and Barriers as well as The Role of Technology in PD, I continue to discover evidence of successful integration from schools/districts that offer ongoing PD at a central location that is led by educators who for in the district. In addition, teacher’s time is recognized somehow whether it be extra pay, badges, credits, clock hours, certification.  Similar to districts in previous posts, Carson City School District in Nevada, identified a need to support tech integration when they began to transition to a 1:1 district for grades 3-12.

How does this support personalised PD? Carson City School District allocate 4 hours on Wednesdays to optional PD at their Professional Development Center, referring to this time as Technology Café. I like their acronym CAFÉ, because it aligns with the best practices in Dr. Lisa Kolb’s Triple E Framework.

What does this look like? Teachers can choose how long they visit the Café, who they collaborate with, what lessons or resources they need, and seek advice from colleagues as well as tech specialists. Having a weekly common meeting place that provides snacks and caffeine as well as teacher driven PD, allows teachers to explore ideas or programs they may have considered yet not yet approached due to lack of how they align with district goals and policies.  Personally, when I read this, I was immediately filled with envy thinking about how awesome that would be! The district found this PD strategy effective with an average of 24 teachers attending each week when this article was published in 2015.

In Monica Fuglei’s post Social Media in Education: Benefits, Drawbacks and Things to Avoid, she breaks down why teachers should consider using social media professionally, not just personally.  We know that social media is not a fad likely to fade any time soon.  Students enter our rooms familiar with apps either they use personally, or they have seen in action. If teachers are not ready to use apps/networks such as Twitter or Edmodo yet with students, there is still so much to be gained by joining groups of professionals online to share resources, ideas, and network. 

Social Media Profiles and Communication

With so many educational apps being introduced all the time, it can be daunting for teachers to know where to begin and what is allowed in their district.  Each district has their own rules, but each district should also have tech specialist who are available to answer questions for educators.  When it comes to using social media to connect with others, there has been a heavy emphasis on professionalism, privacy settings, and district policies.  If a teacher is looking for another way to connect, online blogs offer a great way to share information with families and many now have private messaging options for parents and teachers.  I bring this up as an alternative to teachers friending parents/students on apps such as Facebook.  

Putting My Own Words Into Action

Presently, I’m using Seesaw with my students and love the way parents can see and comment on their child’s work, bonus is that they can do it in any language.  This helps show students that what they post is viewed by others and helps raise the bar for how they choose to submit posts.  In addition, I have moderation power, and choose to read each post/comment before approving to our class page. This year I’ve been learning with my students how Seesaw works, and I’ve been overall impressed with the thoughtful comments they leave on their peers work. As educators, we need to continuously look at how we can modernize our teaching to help prepare our students for future learning goals.  Using social media or apps for communication allows teachable moments in digital citizenship that can help our students as 21st century learners.

Without joining Seesaw Facebook groups, webinars, and following on Twitter or Instagram, I wouldn’t feel nearly as confident using the app, let alone modeling how it works for other teachers. Within my own building, my hope is that several of the teachers who’ve shown interest in Seesaw will actively use the program next year. I realise however, for this to work, we need time to collaborate, for them to see it in action with students, and more than a one time PD session. So how can I take this to the next level? Networking!  Using my social media contacts, I am confident I can ask for support on how other schools have introduced Seesaw in schools with similar demographics and limited devices. Through social media contacts outside of my district, I can learn from others and hopefully implement a PD session in August for a new PLC group next year that are interested in using digital portfolios to monitor student growth.


Morris, L. (2015, February 27). Turn tech PD into a casual trip to the CAFE with this new model. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from

Davis, M. (2013, February 26). Social Media for Teachers: Guides, Resources, and Ideas. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from

Fuglei, M. (2017, November 13). Dos and Don’ts for Using Social Media as a Teacher. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from

Higgin, T. (2017, November 30). How to Craft Useful, Student-Centered Social Media Policies. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from

Educators Digital Citizenship through Global Collaboration and Competency

At the center of my current studies with the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University is ISTE Coaching Standard 4, which focuses on how professional learning can best support teacher practice and, ultimately, student learning.  And as the country recently suffered another tragedy in a public school shooting rampage.  I think that this post is poignant as it will talk about teaching digital citizenship and global competencies for educators is essential for the future of our students.  Both of these expectations help to create empathy and global awareness for our students and teachers which with this recent tragedy is relevant.

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 12.58.01 PM

In my early exploration, I derived that a big part of “digital age” best practices comes from digital citizenship.  Moreover, I recently was given the opportunity to speak at the TCEA Global Education Day alongside Dr. Ariel Tichnor-Wagner who is the Senior Fellow of Global Competence at ASCD. From her presentation, I learned how heavily ASCD has invested in creating a vast amount of materials that could influence educators to take on global collaboration. On top of that, when I think about the phrase “digital age” it makes me think of digital citizenship and netiquette which we all talk about in the classroom, but sometimes students feel freer when on a website to cyberbully a classmate or troll them.  So, therefore how can I make digital citizenship an important aspect of professional development with adult learners?

To bring it all together, I am going to approach digital citizenship through the lens of global competence.  I want to take into consideration the respect piece and know that professional educators are adults who understand at a logical level what should and should not go on the internet.  But perhaps they do not feel like teaching these aspects should be a part of their teaching practice.  Global competence is a way to connect my two ideas if teachers are influenced to push their teaching onto a worldwide platform by helping their students they will need to in-turn learn some newer components of digital citizenship.

Because the competencies are multi-faceted and can get a bit overwhelming, I want to focus in on one under Knowledge: Understanding of the ways that the world is interconnected.  The fundamental connection piece in my mind is the word “interconnectedness” because the only way we will achieve this element is through our modern technology bringing us together. As field trips and vacations are becoming events of the past teachers must reach beyond their four walls.  Keep in mind that as Vivien Stewart, in ASCD’s Becoming Citizens of the World says, “To compete successfully in the global marketplace, both U.S.-based multinational corporations, as well as small businesses, increasingly need employees with knowledge of foreign languages and cultures to market products to customers around the globe and to work effectively with foreign employees and partners in other countries.”

Here are the two Digital Citizenship standard sets, the first for Students and the second for Educators. I think it is important to point out the “living, learning, and working in an ‘interconnected’ digital world, and they [students] act and model in ways that are safe, legal, and ethical” (ISTE).  While in the Educators standard 3a teachers should actively “create experiences for learners to make positive, socially, responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community” (ISTE).  Therefore it is necessary for educators to know how to navigate social actions online with positive interactions.  Educators must also know how to demonstrate this social action to their students, connecting back to what Vivien Stewart states in her article that global competence “skills are necessary, of course, but to be successful global citizens, workers, and leaders, students will need to be knowledgeable about the world, be able to communicate in languages other than English and be informed and active citizens.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 2.34.51 PM

ISTE Educator Standards
ISTE Educator Standards

What can teachers do?

They can show global competence through action, demonstrations, and global collaboration projects.  It is crucial to mention that administrators must back-up teachers who are willing to connect with classrooms around the world and who have the technological wherewithal to reach outside their comfort zone to find these collaborative educators.  The undertaking is not easy but with the support of administration, it can become easier and certainly worthwhile for the educators and students.  It will help to have a large plan of what you want to achieve, but start slowly, one course or grade level at a time. “Involve parents as well as business and community leaders in planning and supporting international education and world languages. Focus on professional development for teachers, including partnerships with local colleges, so teachers can broaden and deepen their international knowledge.” Use international exchanges, both real and virtual, to enable students to gain firsthand knowledge of the culture they are studying. If it is unfeasible for students to travel, try technology-based alternatives, such as classroom-to-classroom linkages, global science projects, and videoconferences (Sachar, 2004).  In the Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State Report, researchers found that the “development and implementation of professional development at the school level impacts student learning” (Lumpe, 2016). These findings help build the body of evidence about the impact of professional learning and potentially adding in global competence to what educators should be taught so they can then go into the classrooms and teach their students.



Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA.

A., & Stewart, V. (2007, April). Becoming Citizens of the World. Retrieved February 13, 2018, from April 2007 | Volume 64 | Number 7 The Prepared Graduate Pages 8-14

Empowering Students through Individualized Keyboarding Goals

Formal keyboarding is now being taught in many elementary schools, sometimes beginning in Kindergarten.  One of the main reasons for teaching typing this young is the standardized tests that are now taken on computers.  As educators, we want our students focused on answering the question, not spending their precious time and mental energy struggling with the typing, looking for keys, and typing so slowly that they lose their train of thought.  In an article by Anne Trubek (2011) she explains this thinking, “Touch typing allows us to write without thinking about how we are writing, freeing us to focus on what we are writing, on our ideas. Touch typing is an example of cognitive automaticity, the ability to do things without conscious attention or awareness. Automaticity takes a burden off our working memory, allowing us more space for higher-order thinking.”


ISTE standard #1 for students is: “Empowered Learner- Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences”.  Keyboarding is an area that is not typically thought of as having a lot of student-centered learning. Motivation, especially intrinsic motivation, can be hard to come by in a keyboarding class. However, by empowering students to direct their own learning and set goals based on their knowledge of themselves as individual learners, keyboarding can become a class that encourages active learners to demonstrate competency that fits their typing strengths and needs.


In my classroom, I have three main goals for my students with regard to keyboarding: speed, accuracy, and technique.  Many others who teach keyboarding have the same three goals. Dr. Z, a leading researcher in keyboarding, agrees. In his blog,,  he writes “ the need for accuracy goes without discussion” and speed is key because we want typing to keep up with our students’ thinking. Interestingly, he also discusses how typing in the past was primarily used to type what someone else had written, but today it is the writer doing the typing. So matching our typing speed to our thoughts is much more important today.   Lastly,  Dr. Z states, “Technique involves the methods that keyboarders should use to optimize their speed and the ergonomics that will lessen physical injuries.”  In my classroom, technique is also using all the fingers to type and using the “correct” finger to tap the corresponding key.


Many typing programs use speed and accuracy as a cumulative score/goal. While this is motivating for some students, it is frustrating for many others.  When I have emphasized technique and told my students to not worry about their speed, some lost motivation because the speed goal was their motivation. When I shared this frustration, a fellow teacher suggested that I have students choose their own goal from the three keyboarding areas.  I love this idea because, when it was suggested to me, I immediately thought of my students and could predict which students which choose which keyboarding area to focus on.  Student autonomy and giving students the power to reflect on themselves as learners and use that reflection to guide their goal setting can drastically increase intrinsic motivation.  In his blog,, Maurice Elias writes about this, “Many empirical studies have shown that excessive control from strict, negative rules and punishments and extrinsic rewards for doing the “right thing” can achieve short-term compliance. But there are costs: it undermines intrinsic motivation, it decreases the overall quality of performance, and it connects continued performance to the availability and delivery of rewards.”


Giving students an option on what area of keyboarding to focus on requires them to consider which goal would be the best fit for them. It calls for reflection and considering themselves as a unique learner. It also allows for differentiation and unhindered growth because, within each area students can identify their own specific goal and once they meet these goals, then can increase their goal in that area (if applicable) or chose another area of keyboarding to focus on.  As teacher who is delivering keyboarding instruction, my main goal is that my students are confident typers. Giving students choice on their focus area allows them to achieve confidence in that area and, once confidence is gained, it is much harder to lose.  




Elias, M. (2016, February 15). Student autonomy, compliance and intrinsic motivation. Edutopia. Retrieved  on (2018, January 21) from (2017) ISTE Standards for Students. (Retrieved on 2018, January 21) from:


Trubek, A. (2011, August 15). Out of Touch with Typing. (Retrieved on 2018, January 21) from:


Zeitz, L. (2010, May 15).  It’s about Accuracy, Speed, and Technique. (Retrieved  on 2018, January 21) from:

Digital Readiness: Departmental Views on Addressing Digital Citizenship

What does a “typical” college student looks like? Besides the stereotypical images of a caffeine-fueled, student loan-laded, twenty-something, most people would say that the college student today is very tech savvy.  While it is commonplace to see students carry around a laptop, constantly checking their cell phones, and always connected to social media, do they know how to use technology well? An article written by educational leaders Mike Ribble and Teresa Miller, introduces the concept of digital citizenship, arguing that while being tech savvy is important, being a good digital citizen should also include respect of self and others, education and connection with others, and, protecting self and others, (Ribble & Miller, 2013).  In order to achieve this, they identified nine elements central to digital citizenship as summarized in Table 1.1 below.

Table 1.1

Ribble-Miller’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship

Category 1:

Respect Self and Others

·       Digital Etiquette- courtesy and appropriate online actions.

·       Digital Access –similar opportunities for all students.

·       Digital Law- basic laws, and consequences, apply online.

Category 2:

Educations and Connection with Others

·       Digital Communication- avoiding online miscommunication.

·       Digital Literacy- technology know-how.

·       Digital Commerce- safe online purchases.

Category 3:

Protect Self and Others

·       Digital Rights and Responsibility- rules must be followed or rights are revoked.

·       Digital Security- protection of personal information.

·       Digital Health and Welfare- balanced online- offline life.

As Ribble & Miller demonstrate above, to use technology well requires much more than just know-how, also known as, digital literacy.  Digital citizenship is a broad, complex topic that spans a variety of different issues.  Questions on how students should develop digital citizenship and who should teach it, has sparked discussion in the digital education world. While responsibility should fall on many fronts, such as society, family, and peers, educational institutions also hold a responsibility to teach moral and ethical values to their students, preparing them for a successful future. The challenge remains, as Ribble & Miller put it:  “How are educational leaders to prepare their students for a digital future when they do not yet fully understand these technologies?” (Ribble & Miller, 2013).

The nine elements of digital citizenship offer a guide to educational institutions on how to better prepare their students.  As a higher education professor, my take on digital citizenship is that educational leaders need to look at technology use and requirements through various perspectives such as from faculty, administrators, and the industry. Though I have a somewhat good understanding of how faculty view technology in the classroom, I was curious to know how do administrators feel about technology use and what do specific industries provide as resources for technology in their field?  In preparing for this project, I identified two administrative leaders who could best provide answers to my questions.  Since I teach dietetics, I also sought to understand how the dietetic profession viewed digital citizenship and/or if the profession could provide some best practices as a curriculum guide.

Digital Readiness Interview.

My objective was to first understand what students already do well in terms of digital citizenship and how well educators were prepared to teach the missing elements.  This objective was completed through an interview with two of the departmental leaders at a private university.

The Procedure. The interview consisted of ten questions pertaining to the nine elements of digital citizenship, with exception to digital commerce.  Digital commerce was not addressed in this interview as it was not department-specific. Questions were arranged by the digital citizenship categories (see Table 1.1).  Questions from category one consisted of one question per element addressing digital access, digital law, and digital etiquette.  Category two consisted of one digital communication question, and three digital literacy questions.  Questions addressing category three consisted of one question per element regarding health and welfare, and digital security. Five additional questions were asked addressing digital citizenship in dietetics education.

The interview questions along with detailed instructions were emailed out to the two department leaders about two days prior to their scheduled interview to allow time for reflection.  During the scheduled interview, the two leaders were asked to respond to the questions through their observations between faculty and students.  The response data was collected and compiled for interpretation, coding any similarities and themes among the responses.

The Interview Findings.  The findings of the digital readiness interview positively showed that students demonstrated competency in, or the department was able to provide ample resources for the following digital citizenship elements: digital etiquette, digital access, digital law, digital communication, and digital literacy.  Though these were positive results, small improvements were identified in the areas of digital communication, etiquette, and literacy. For example, a strength identified in digital literacy was providing instruction in industry-specific software, but minor additions could be added to enrich professional social media skills to help better establish a positive online presence.  Students also demonstrated good digital etiquette by communicating with their professors in a professional manner but tended to email their professors with questions that could be easily answered through resources readily available through their class syllabus or through the department website. The other elements of digital citizenship were identified as either addressed by the department but to a limited extent, or not addressed.  These elements included: digital rights and responsibilities, digital security, and digital health and welfare.  Though these elements are addressed to by the university through available student resources, improvements on the departmental level can help reinforce these elements. Of these elements, digital security, was identified as an immediate need and steps were taken to help develop awareness and professional development after the interview. The interview findings as identified strengths and areas of improvement are shown in the infographic below.

For the dietetics specific questions, it was determined that the current code of ethics could be used to address digital citizenship concerns.  Since the practice of dietetics relies heavily on this code, adhering to the code would help guide good digital citizenship.  The specific principles that align with digital citizenship are summarized in the infographic below.

Reflection and Conclusions.

The main issue regarding digital readiness, in my opinion, is that educators, including professors, feel like digital immigrants, meaning that they did not grow up with technology and do not feel comfortable with technology.  They may be slow adopters as new technology develops, putting a critical eye into the utility and purpose of each new technology.  Professors may feel a little behind as their students, demonstrating characteristics of digital natives, understand and adopt technology quickly as they have been using technology their whole lives, (Floridi, 2010).  Professors may feel pressured or feel a little behind when students mention new technology. Despite whether someone self-identifies as a digital native or immigrant, it still does not necessarily equate to knowledge of good technology use.  Therefore, the role of the educator in teaching digital citizenship, is to prepare college students for the professional challenges in technology that lie after leaving the safe and secure environment of the university.  This is why teaching digital citizenship is very important.  We need to teach students these skills while allowing them to practice in an environment that is easy to recover from an error.

The results from the department interview showed a commitment to building good digital citizens.  The areas identified for improvement didn’t seem to come as a surprise but rather an acknowledgement that more guidance and support was needed in order to successfully enrich the department programs with the nine elements of digital citizenship.  Given the positive attitude and the open-mindness of the department, all of the elements can be easily incorporated following the JISC recommendations including adapting digital citizenship into existing learning outcomes, (JISC, 2015).  After the interviews, each department leader and I spent a little bit of time brainstorming ideas and were able to successfully identify several minor adjustments to current curriculum, including assignments and course design elements to better improve social media literacy for professional use, digital communication, digital health and welfare, and digital security. As it turns out, the timing was also critical, given that the department was in the midst of evaluating current curriculum, the brainstorm helped to look at what being taught in a new light. In order for the department to fulfill all of its digital citizenship needs, it will need to seek some outside help and set-aside time for professional development.  This is an effort that will require time and significant effort but no more than what is already needed in order to ensure that the students are able to be competitive in their respective industries by graduation.

In terms of digital readiness, what professors need to realize is that the critical thinking and evaluation skills that makes them “slow-adapters” to technology is not a bad thing.  As in the case of the department, the curriculum-wheel does not need to be reinvented, but instead what is needed is a good revamp of the traditional elements of curriculum with a technology-focused twist.  As explored in the post-interview discussions, not all new tech is good tech.  Not every technology will provide optimal functionality and purpose as the current model/version.  Educational institutions have a lot to offer to students.  The key is to forget about digital natives and digital immigrants and all work towards becoming good digital citizens.


Floridi, L. (2010).  “The Information Revolution,” Information—A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3-18.

JISC. (2015). Developing students’ digital literacy. Retrieved from

Ribble, M. & Miller, T.N. (2013).  “Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically,” Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17:1, 137-45.