I'm Just Like You! Reflection of a Tech Coach on The School Shutdown and a Special Offer

Saturday, July 18, 2020
For me, it was March 16 when everything seemed to start changing. Up until that day, even with all the craziness around me, my life was still kind of normal. My daughter starred in the district's musical Wizard of Oz on Saturday. I went out to eat with my parents. I picked up my groceries like every other Sunday (except for toilet paper, that had already been bought up!). But it wasn't until that moment on March 16, when we were told "school's closed" that I realized it was real and things would be different.

Since I'm not a K-12 classroom teacher, I didn't have to scramble to get lessons together. I didn't have to worry about the ungraded assessments or the ones that I hadn't given yet. I didn't have to worry about the books or jackets that students left in my classroom. Yet, it was a struggle mentally because I was anticipating what was to come . . . how will we reach all of our students remotely?! 

My colleague and I did scramble to get resources together. We created how-to videos from our dining rooms. We replied to emails and phone calls from frantic teachers, parents, and students. We considered how our role must shift to support teachers in their new learning environments. And we made it through! It wasn't perfect, but it was what needed to happen in that moment. 

And now we find ourselves in the next phase: waiting and wondering! While our state has issued some guidelines, spiking cases of Covid-19 are continuing to cause shifts. The face-to-face summer program we were going to hold in July has been postponed and may be totally virtual or totally cancelled. Other districts are issuing their plans but my district is still assessing everything (including those other districts' plans) to make the best decision for our students.

I am not new to technology and learning. I completed my entire master's in educational technology online! I spent my last year in the classroom integrating technology into my instruction and the 3 last years helping other teachers successfully do the same. BUT . . . I'M JUST LIKE YOU! I was scared of the changes that came in the Spring. I am adjusting to new protocols just to leave the house. I am missing my students, my colleagues, and my routine (YES, I MISS GOING TO WORK EVERYDAY!). I am nervous, uncertain, hopeful, and just a little scared. And IF I were a classroom teacher, I would be incredibly anxious about being prepared for remote learning situations in the fall.


SCETV Guest Blog Series: Why All 21st-Century Educators Must Teach Media Literacy & How

Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Over the summer, my local PBS station, SCETV, asked me to present at their conference, 21st-Century Learners Week. They asked me to talk to other educators about media literacy. While I had done a lot of general digital citizenship instruction for all ages, I had never really focused solely on media literacy. I had to do a little homework, but with the help of online resources like Common Sense Education, I was able to learn a lot and share why teaching media literacy is sooooo important for ALL educators! You can check out what I shared at the conference on my Presentations page.

Because I learned so much from preparing and sharing, I decided to amp up the media literacy instruction at our high school, providing monthly media literacy instruction for students in grades 9-12. So I was really excited when SCETV contacted me again about being a guest blogger for their site. I really felt like I could reach even more educators if I again covered how and why to teach media literacy. Here is the blog post I shared:


With technology being an integral part of classrooms and students’ lives in general, I realize that my job as a teacher involves helping students successfully navigate the online world.

My goal this year is to help every student develop 21st-century skills, including being responsible users of technology and critical consumers of media they encounter.

As a teacher reading this, you are likely integrating digital media in your classroom. I challenge you, too, in the new year to include media literacy as a part of your daily instruction. But you may wonder, “Why should I be responsible for teaching media literacy, and how can I do it on top of an already packed curriculum?”

Why do ALL educators need to teach media literacy?

Linda Ellerbee, host of Nick News (1992-2015), said, “Media literacy is not just important, it's absolutely critical. It's going to make the difference between whether kids are a tool of the mass media or whether the mass media is a tool for kids to use.” In other words, do we want students to be manipulated by media, or do we want to empower them to use media? 
I firmly believe that it’s every teacher’s job to prepare students to become knowledgeable, productive 21st-century citizens. With tweens and teens spending an average of 6 and 9 hours respectively using media (Common Sense Media, 2015) -- and that’s not including homework! --  it’s no longer a question of whether our students will be digital citizens, it’s whether they will be good digital citizens and digital leaders! With media literacy instruction they can be both!!
Media Literacy and 21st-Century Skills
Teaching media literacy provides students with skills that will help them foremost think critically about media. It also cultivates other 21st-century skills like creativity, collaboration, and communication, as well as increasing digital literacy skills through interacting with media, information, and technology. Media literacy instruction can also help your students develop into active consumers of information, determine credible sources, acknowledge biases in media, and be responsible creators of media.
Whether you teach science, English language arts, social studies or art, there is a place for the development of these skills in your instruction!

But HOW Can Educators Include Media Literacy as an Integral Part of Daily Instruction?!

The National Association of Media Literacy Education defines media literacy as “the ability to ACCESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, CREATE, & ACT using all forms of communication.” Let’s look at some ways educators can help students develop into media-literate individuals.
Access to Quality Sources. We need to ensure students can access quality sources that are current, reliable, and unbiased when they are interacting with media at school. 
  • Provide students a curated collection of quality resources through links in their learning management systems or tools like Padlet or Waklet
  • Provide access to quality content collections like Pebble GoEpic!, and NewsELA.
  • Teach older students strategies for searching for information. Reach out to your media specialist, and I’ll bet he or she will be happy to help you! 
Analyze/Evaluate Using Critical Thinking. But how do students know which sources are credible when the encounter them without our support? Whether they are watching YouTube, reading news, or analyzing images, students need skills to understand information, put it in context, and differentiate between real and fake. One way to do this is to teach students to ask questions when analyzing and evaluating media:
  • Who is the author?
  • What is its purpose? (inform, entertain, persuade)
  • How might different people interpret this message?
  • Are there certain groups of people being represented and/or excluded?
  • Were certain details left out? Why?
  • Also consider: Are sources cited? Are there grammar and spelling errors?
Additionally, giving students the time and opportunity to think for themselves and coaching them on how to ask questions is instrumental for them to learn to analyze and evaluate media on their own.
While teachers must explicitly provide students opportunities to think critically, the critical thinking involved in analyzing and evaluating digital resources should be routinely modeled through teacher think alouds, where students hear, see, and experience this type of thought process.
Creating Media Content. We want to shift from students being solely consumers to being creators who can express themselves through media. When students create media, especially with the questions for analyzing and evaluating in mind, it helps them to consider the impact their creations will have on their audience. Some quality tools for students to use for creating include SeesawGoogle ToolsCanvaBook Creator, and Meme Generator.
Distributing Created Messages Responsibly. Besides thinking critically about media, this is probably one of the most important parts of media literacy. We want students to be life-long learners prepared to internalize what they’ve learned about media and transfer it beyond the classroom, including monitoring themselves on social media, being critical of media before sharing it, and empowering them to create and share media responsibly! 

Media Literacy Resources to Try Tomorrow

While there are a plethora of resources for teaching media literacy, these tried-and-true resources should help you develop ideas to take back to your classroom and use immediately. 
SCETV/PBS Education Resources
SCETV/PBS Pre-K-12 content like Knowitall, Learning Why, and PBS LearningMedia provide quality media and multimedia resources and lessons for SC students and teachers. 
* Improve your media literacy knowledge and skills plus earn micro-credentials with FREE courses from PBS and KQED
Common Sense Education
Common Sense Education has free, comprehensive digital citizenship curriculums for K-12 students that include lessons on media literacy. 
Google Resources
  • Be Internet Awesome, Google’s free digital safety curriculum, helps encourage students to be smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave when online, and has recently added some media literacy lessons. 
  • Search Education is a series of lessons to help you guide your students to use Google searches meaningfully in their schoolwork and beyond. Choose from Search Literacy lessons and A Google A Day classroom challenges.
  • Reverse Image Search can help students determine if images have been altered.
Other Useful Resources
Interactives like Factitious and Bad News help students to better discriminate “fake news” and develop resistance against disinformation.

Check out the original blog post "Why All 21st-Century Educators Must Teach Media Literacy and How" and additional resources at the SCETV website.

SCETV Guest Blogger Series: Ideas for Teachers to Incorporate Digital Citizenship into Their Instruction

Monday, October 1, 2018
Many teachers feel overwhelmed by everything they already have to do in the classroom each day and can’t imagine having to do one more thing! Many teachers using technology complain about the management aspect of 1:1 initiatives. However, digital citizenship instruction can go a long way to improving classroom management in a 21st-century classroom. In fact, any teacher incorporating technology into their teaching must also teach students to be responsible digital citizens.


But why are teachers responsible for teaching digital citizenship? Part of our purpose as teachers is to help students become knowledgeable and productive citizens ready for the real world, and today we are preparing students to be citizens in a 21st-century world. And while those of us that grew up before or along with the digital age may differentiate between the “real” world and the digital world, today’s students don’t see themselves as having a digital world versus a real world; it’s ALL their world.

Then that brings us to “how?” How do teachers add digital citizenship instruction to their already packed curriculums? Read on to see how one district effectively teaches digital citizenship and for some tips to alleviate the anxiety you might feel about having to teach digital citizenship. And with Common Sense Education’s Digital Citizenship week approaching, October 14 - 19, now is the perfect time to evaluate your digital citizenship instruction.
How One 1:1 District Approaches Digital Citizenship Instruction
In my 1:1 district, digital citizenship is a group effort. Teachers, media specialists and digital learning coaches work together to teach digital citizenship to K-12 students in our four schools. Students at our primary school (K-2) receive initial digital citizenship lessons through the media specialist and their classroom teachers. Digital citizenship practices are introduced before students even touch devices through teacher modeling, read-alouds, and direct instruction. Teachers connect digital citizenship practices to what they are already teaching. The media specialist has formal digital citizenship lessons for 1st and 2nd grade students immediately following the rollout of their devices and embeds digital citizenship lessons through the course of the year. Most of these lessons are centered around safety at this age. Resources for these lessons are pulled from Common Sense Education and BrainPop, Jr.

At our elementary school, 3rd through 5th grade students receive digital citizenship lessons in the media center. The media specialist bases digital citizenship lessons around that section of the new South Carolina Computer Science standards. Resources include Common Sense Education’s printable and Nearpod lessons, as well as Cyberwise’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum. Digital citizenship is promoted throughout the year with different little tidbits on privacy, password sharing, etc as they are naturally a part of the lesson (for instance, when students are signing up for CoSpaces, they discuss how CoSpaces asks for permission to view your Google Account email address and what the implications of that are). Both the elementary and primary school media specialists plan on assessing what students learned through a Google Form at the end of the initial unit and formatively assessing students throughout the year during computer science instruction.

Middle school students (6th-8th) receive monthly digital citizenship lessons created by the digital learning coaches pulling from a variety of resources Common Sense Education, Google’s Be Internet Awesome, and Brainpop. These are ready-made Google Slides lessons incorporating a variety of instructional strategies that teachers facilitate, as well as engaging online content like videos, games, and interactives. Students compete yearly in grade-level Quizizz challenges where the student in each grade level with the highest points receives a special prize!

At the high school, the media specialist offers teachers time to sign up for Common Sense Education’s Nearpod digital citizenship lessons in the media center, but most teachers embed digital citizenship in their instruction. Data from a recent survey of teachers and students indicates that while some of the digital citizenship instruction students receive involves staying safe online, more of it tends to involve evaluating and properly citing online sources. Additionally, last year both students at the middle and high schools piloted Google’s Applied Digital Skills curriculum which incorporates many digital literacies along the way.

While plans for formal digital citizenship instruction exists at all four schools, we still encourage teachers to embed digital citizenship in their instruction anytime students are using devices. To help teachers navigate this in their classrooms, the digital learning coaches developed a challenge for teachers to complete Google’s Digital Citizenship and Safety Course. Teachers that complete the challenge complete a reflection form and receive a badge. Additionally, we offer students digital citizenship tips and reminders through wallpapers pushed out to all student Chromebooks.
Digital Citizenship Resources to Try Tomorrow
Like anything else online, there are a plethora of resources for teaching digital citizenship. However, these top tried-and-true resources should help you design the perfect digital citizenship curriculum for your class or school.
  • Common Sense Education has free comprehensive digital citizenship curriculums for K-12 students. The ready-to-teach lessons engage students with authentic digital dilemmas to solve and include printables, iBooks lessons, and Nearpod lessons (some free, some paid), as well as free interactives and games: Digital Passport for 3-5, Digital Compass for 6-8, and Digital Bytes for 9-12. The curriculums include student assessments and family engagement materials, too. Further, Common Sense Education provides teachers with extensive training materials and recognizes teachers and schools that are going above and beyond when it comes to preparing students to be responsible digital citizens.
  • Google’s free digital safety curriculum, Be Internet Awesome, helps encourage students to be smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave when online. The curriculum provides educators five engaging lessons that complement four interactive games at Interland. The curriculum is aligned with the ISTE standards and is available as a printable PDF, but individual lessons are also available as Google Slides or interactive presentations using the Pear Deck for Google Slides Add-on. Be Internet Awesome also provides resources for families through the Family Link guide and app for setting digital ground rules at home.
  • BrainPOP’s free digital citizenship curriculum teaches students how to use devices and interact online in a safe, responsible, and positive way. Topics include cyberbulling, peer pressure, digital etiquette, and information privacy. The engaging and interactive curriculum allows students to discover how to navigate the digital world through videos, games, and other activities and provides teachers with lesson plans, rubrics, quizzes and more. BrainPOP, Jr. offers younger students a lesson on digital safety along with other digital literacy skills as they are beginning to venture out online.

Tips for Embedding Digital Citizenship in Your Instruction Today
Don’t think of digital citizenship as “one more thing,” but try to incorporate it into what you are already doing. Try one or all of these:
  • Just as you teach other non-instructional routines and procedures (and revisit them throughout the year), make teaching digital citizenship another one of your procedures.
  • Model digital citizenship as a teacher. When encountering a fishy email or website, model for students how to identify suspicious emails or websites and how you handle the situation.
  • For younger students, read-alouds are a great way to incorporate digital citizenship into your curriculum. Books like Once Upon a Time Online by David Bedford could be read during a study on fairy tales, or any time! Or If You Give a Mouse an iPhone: A Cautionary Tale by Ann Droyd could be read when studying cause and effect or could be compared to the other If You Give a Mouse . . . (by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond) books. Older students enjoy read-alouds, too!
  • Provide students opportunities to interact in online environments and moderate the discussion. Digital conversations and sharing through digital platforms like Google Classroom or Seesaw allow students to practice how to behave online in a safe, supportive environment.
  • “Sneak in” digital citizenship when you are providing instruction in other areas. For instance, when students are conducting research, remind them they must always credit their digital sources and show them how. Or when students are responding to each other on collaborative platforms, prompt them to keep their comments positive and always be respectful to others online.
  • Small checks for understanding about digital citizenship can occur quickly and simply through digital platforms. Students can complete a bell ringer on Padlet about not oversharing online (or in class!). Or have students take a Quizizz about credible sites for exploring US history.
  • Use the interactive resources shared above to create center rotations or independent reading centers. For example, students could explore Interland or the Digital Compass interactives during technology rotation. Or have students read Common Sense Education’s iBook lessons during independent reading.
  • On the fly: look out for opportunities that present themselves. When my second graders were watching Zootopia (2016) on movie day, there was a guy selling DVDs and video games that had not been released yet. I asked them, “Boys and girls, is he being a good digital citizen?” They responded, “No because he has stolen someone else’s intellectual property!” (Yes, they really said that because their media specialist had taught them that vocabulary)!
  • Know when to unplug! Model for students that they don’t have to be online all the time by providing offline instruction and activities. Encourage students how to respectfully interact with each other in person.
  • Encourage temporary breaks from devices when students are using them for extended periods of time. Use extensions like Move It to encourage students to disconnect periodically when working on their devices. Or put on a video from GoNoodle to encourage students to be active.
By being intentional and planning ahead for digital citizenship instruction, ALL teachers can effectively teach digital citizenship to our 21st-century students.
You can check out my original guest blog post at SCETV. While you're there, visit the other post in the Guest Blogger Series for more edtech inspiration!

Engaging Students with BreakoutEDU

Thursday, May 31, 2018
The past few weeks of this school year have been a complete blur!! Just when I thought things might slow down because of testing and teachers wrapping up the year, my calendar filled up quickly with teachers wanting to do Breakouts! My partner in crime, Andrea, and I had 7 this month! Whew! If you've ever participated in a Breakout, you know that though they are extremely engaging and amazing to facilitate and watch, they are also exhausting! Especially when running them for middle school classes back-to-back!

Haven't heard about BreakoutEDU? It's an amazing way to gamify your classroom, get students engaged in content, and have them apply their knowledge in a variety of ways. BreakoutEDU takes the concept of escape rooms (you know those places that are popping up where you and your friends are willingly locked in a room and have to solve clues to escape it?) and helps you bring it to the classroom! Students solve clues to unlock locks attached to a box to save the day, solve a problem, or just get the surprise inside!


Breakouts are not only an exciting way to introduce and/or reinforce content standards, but also an awesome way for enhancing those soft skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration (for SC educators, these are all highlighted in the Profile of the SC Graduate)! While some students will be having soooooo much fun, they will not even realize how hard they are working, others do find it challenging and may need your encouragement to persevere!!!!
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