Building identity using digital citizenship

If we were living in the past, say 40 years back, “identity” would probably be defined by physical markers; someone’s identity could stem from what they wore, how they spoke, what kind of music they listened to, and the like. Identity could be found in career; this person is a businessman, and that person is an artist. Identity could be carved from personality; she is a happy, joyful girl, and he is a pensive introvert. People didn’t have another identity unless they were a double agent. It could be true that their identity consisted of many things, but most markers could be seen on the surface.

Now that we’re knee-deep into the digital age, things have changed a bit. Online, a person can have as many identities as they want; anyone can become a new person entirely with a few clicks, meaning they can transform themselves into something or somebody far from who they truly are (MTV’s Catfish, anyone?). This isn’t isolated to social media like Facebook and Instagram; professional profiles on sites such as LinkedIn can be fabricated as well, making it difficult for employers to find trustworthy employees (this article shares an employer’s perspective on an employee who did just that). In shorter terms, it’s easy to be misleading or dishonest about who you are online, which can cause a thousand unnecessary problems for everyone involved.

So, how do we manage our web identity and craft it to be an asset rather than a detriment? More importantly, how do we educate our students on the importance of keeping a positive and appropriate presence online? Once again, we find the answer in none other than digital citizenship!

To understand identity on the web, first we must understand what exactly digital citizenship is. This short clip does an excellent job explaining digital citizenship and what it means to be a good digital citizen. There are five main categories, including privacy, ownership, participation, trustworthiness, and (you guessed it) identity:

It’s discouraging to hear that there is an ethics problem within our young digital citizens, but a good chunk of that can be attributed to lack of digital literacy education. Many teachers are recognizing this and are reflecting on what it takes to be digitally literate and conscious about our online identity. Katherine Solokowski’s article about her journey with teaching digital citizenship and identity has some great tips; talking about what’s appropriate to post online, the permanence of what you post, and how that affects peoples’ view of you are just a few. This post from The Learning Network also contains good pointers, including reading your posts from an outsider’s perspective and doing “drills” with fake profiles to make students think about how to craft their web identity.

Perhaps the greatest advice I read came from Katherine Solokowski’s blog. She recognizes that students will inevitably make mistakes; they will post something they’ll regret or may not behave as they should online, but if she can act as a role model for digital citizenship her students can have at least one positive influence online. She hopes that her students will see her optimism and model that in their own presence online. This, to me, is one of the best ways to teach students about what a good online identity looks like;

Each of us have a digital footprint; we all have a voice and an identity online, and it’s important that we make it our strongest brand possible. It’s also important that we teach our students to do the same, because by doing that we will be creating a multitude of responsible digital citizens.




On Google I found…

I don’t think there’s a single person with access to Internet that hasn’t at least thought of Googling themselves.

Even when I was just learning how to use a computer, back in the days of Windows 98 and those horrendous orange keyboard covers, if my class had a “free day” we would spend most of it Googling ourselves. A group of about six of us would gather around the desktop monitor while one of us would do the dirty work; we would boot up Internet Explorer and go one by one, laughing at any results we would see (mostly older people and really awful glamour shoots). We didn’t find a single picture of ourselves, of course; this was far before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media site we can’t go more than an hour without now.

Things have definitely changed, haven’t they?

I can’t remember the last time I Googled myself, but I figured that this go-around I would find more than glamour shots. I was right; I started with Google Images first, mainly because I wanted to see if there were any photos of me. I figured there would be a handful, mainly due to my blog or because of my Twitter. I was partially right. The first picture I came across was of my old Twitter profile picture. This was somewhat odd, because this Twitter profile was 1.) private, and 2.) has been deleted for a while now.


The second photo I found was from my current Twitter, the one I use for this class. This made more sense given that it’s a public page.


Next, I chose to Google actual pages related to me. Most of the pages were of LinkedIn profiles, many of which consisted of counselors and CEOs (go, Shannons of the world, go!). I was figuring I wouldn’t find any of my own pages until, lo and behold, my Twitter page was sitting prettily as the last link on the first page!

Probably the most surprising find was my Google e-Portfolio from a media class in my freshman year. I had completely forgot about this page! It contains quite a bit of material, including a resume, links to videos of teaching examples and how-tos, and honors and awards. I should probably update it at some point or another, but if I hadn’t Googled myself I wouldn’t have found it.

I wasn’t surprised about the quantity of what I found, mainly because I keep my social media profiles private. The only public account I have is Twitter, but given that I could still be traced back to my old Twitter shows that what’s online truly is permanent. The good news, however, is that I try to practice mindfulness in posting onto any profile I have. From the minute I was allowed to get social media, I was reminded that anything I put online could be seen by future employers. I’ve used the “grandma rule”; anything that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see, don’t post. It’s worked to my benefit so far, I think.

The entire time I was Googling myself, I kept thinking back to Juan Enriquez’s TED talk on online permanence. Take a listen; it’ll make you think about what your online presence may hold.


All about ds106

When I was young, one of my most-loved “toys” to fiddle with was Play-Doh. I had about 15 plastic cups of it in an assortment of colors, but it didn’t stop there; I had molds, kits, and my personal favorite, the restaurant set. If I recall right it was a McDonald’s set, and in it you could mold hamburgers, McNuggets, make ice cream, and most of all make fries. The latter two items had plastic contraptions that you would place the Play-Doh in, crank a lever or two, and ta-da! You had fries and ice cream. I had a plastic register as well, and I would grab a paper plate, put my “food” on it, and serve it to my parents. As I got a bit older I would make a drive-thru out of a large cardboard box and move my Play-Doh headquarters in there. I had a blast.

Come to think of it, I’ve always had the most fun when I am creating. I’ve evolved from Play-Doh fries and have created paintings, stories, quilts, and much more (but if I see a bottle of Play-Doh you can bet I’m going to be playing with it for a solid half hour). Creating is innate to almost every species, whether it be for living or for expression, and when someone creates something, anything, there’s a certain sense of accomplishment. You’ve done something; you’ve made something, and it is YOURS!

Unfortunately, we’ve moved away from this in our schools. We’re all about standardized testing, but somehow there’s been a miscommunication that arts, music, and creative expression just isn’t as important as the quadruple-threat of STEM. However, involving creative expression in curriculum has benefits to be reaped abundantly (here is a thought-provoking article to chew on about the topic). That’s why ds106 is a breath of fresh air.

ds106 is an open online class devoted to the creation of digital storytelling through art. The hallmark of ds106 is the Daily Create; like the class itself, it’s open to anybody wanting to create a bit of art each day. It doesn’t take long; each create takes no longer than 15-20 minutes, and the possibilities are abundant. You can choose to either do the create of the day or pick from a category of your choice. This can include anything from audio, video, drawing, writing, and photography, to name a few; you can choose to stick to one kind of art, but the real challenge lies in getting out of your comfort zone and making something you’ve never made before. You can access the daily create through the ds106 website, or you can follow the ds106 page on Twitter for updates and the create of the day.

I see a plethora of opportunities when it comes to using the daily create in the classroom. It keeps us out of the rut we so often fall into and generates challenges to stimulate our minds. Students will get the chance to showcase their talents and inclinations toward certain forms of art, but also explore new and different art forms that they otherwise wouldn’t have touched. Students can collaborate on some creates, and I see this as an awesome integration as part of project-based learning. We can share what we make; I’ll be doing the creates alongside my students, not just to model the daily create, but because it’s FUN!

From exploring the ds106, I’ve decided to integrate the 30 day daily create challenge as a sort of extended unit for my future classroom. I’ll probably do it in the late winter months (because February and March truly are the mind-numbing months in the school year) to get my class out of the winter blues and into the creative mood. In addition to this, I’ll substitute journal time (which I plan to do for about 7-10 minutes at the beginning of every class) with a create challenge every Friday. It can be a sort of celebration of the impending weekend and of our opportunity to create art.

It doesn’t matter what classroom you are in; if you bring art into the room, students’ faces light up with excitement. Students want to create, and we need only give them the chance.


Learning Calligraphy: Week 3 & 4

Whoo-wee. This is a late one. Like, a REALLY late one.

In the past two weeks there have been some roadblocks (both in this ILP and in life), and though I have been working on my calligraphy, I’ve been discouraged. I haven’t felt the passion to write like I had in past weeks. It felt like the ultimate case of writing block, which is basically the most frustrating thing ever, especially when I wanted so badly to learn more techniques. I thought back on our passion-based learning module, and I realized that this is the feeling that many of my students may experience; I thought long and hard about what I needed to do to reignite the flame. How could I get back into the groove?

I did what I always do whenever I’m frustrated and burnt out; I took a walk.

I walked up and down main street, and the further I walked the clearer my head felt. Maybe it was the fresh air and the time away from my apartment, which I lovingly refer to as “the dungeon” (it’s a basement apartment, for all those curious), but getting out and about did the trick. Though it wasn’t fun whatsoever to feel like this, I now have something to try with my students if they feel uninspired.

Now that I’m out of the doldrums, onto what I did! I spent some time with capital letters these past few weeks, and they are infinitely harder than lower case. Well, sometimes, that is. I’m really fond of the capital Z and the W, but I ran into problems once again by not having the right pen. It’s all thicker than it should be, but the style doesn’t look so bad.


Though there specific fonts and styles to learn (which I will), I’m still in the embryonic stages of learning my own style and how I can retrofit that to formal styles. Because my cursive is slanted to begin with, it’s easy for me to create the sharper curves and points that the italic style calls for. I wanted to find some examples in videos to go off, and I found this fantastic video! It goes a bit fast for me, but take a peek anyway:

I tried it out, and even though it’s not perfect, this is the result:


Like I said, everything is still very much in the beginner stages, but I’m getting the hang of it. This week I’ve been working on flourishes and will be dipping into using colored pencils and markers, so stay tuned!

Meaning in content through PBL

Everyone remembers sitting in a classroom, listening the teacher drone on about a new project due in a week or two. You got a handout, a rubric, and a topic, and you make one of the following: an essay, poster, PowerPoint, or something else of dull equivalence. You ended up going through the motions and got a decent grade. A test was given shortly after, and what you learned from the project disappeared as quickly as it was introduced.


I like to be cut and dry, so I will be; this kind of approach to teaching is ineffective. Students who passively learn, don’t ask questions, and don’t engage with material are wasting their time in the classroom. What can we do to make sure our students are getting the best out of their time while becoming the kind of learners they want to be?

Project based learning (or PBL for short), folks. It’s a method that’s on the up and coming, and for good reason; we’re seeing schools such as this STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics) school using only project-based learning. In essence, project-based learning is learning that calls on students to gain knowledge and skills through investigating and responding to real-life, authentic questions. Students do this over an extended period of time and through a wide variety of mediums, hence the name ‘project-based’. In totality, there are about seven or eight steps to PBL; students start with a challenge or question that pertains to a real event. This can be presented in the form of a teaser video, an article, or any other piece of material that links the question to the world. Student discussion and questions come next; this is a large part of project-based learning, and students are encouraged to question and discuss as much as they desire. From this questioning comes a main driving question or challenge on which they will research and find information about. Student choice and voice is encouraged; collaborating and seeking answers with other students and deciding how to work and what they will create is all a part of the process. Feedback and reflection are common in all of this from both the students and teacher. Students will revise and hone their project, and finally they will present the project by displaying, explaining, or publishing their project to their classmates and/or the public.

It seems like a lot of steps, but really it’s a cohesive process; students are actively engaging with information in the way they see fit, and all while using 21st century skills and technology to aide in their learning. PBL is challenging, rigorous, and personalized to the student. Doesn’t that sound like the way learning should be?

Take a look at a few examples of PBL in action:

Notice how hands-on these students are? This is what a ‘classroom’ utilizing PBL looks. Project-based learning is learning for everybody; this blog post by teacher Briana Hewes shows how it may be difficult to integrate PBL into the classroom at first. Students can be apprehensive, especially those who aren’t big on working with others or presenting their work. However, the benefits of project-based learning are too numerable to count, and it’s high time we have this in schools today.

Below are some sample questions to guide PBL planning for teachers. Project-based learning is an approach to learning by the students and for the students; if you want to make a class of active participants in the world, I suggest project-based learning as the first step.

Let’s do our students a favor and make learning what it’s supposed to be.

Networking to the fullest

It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. Right?

I have been told this maaaany times by those older than me, and as I get more in depth in the professional world, I’m finding this to be spot on. It’s not a one or the other situation though, because the trick is this: when you network with people, you’re not only building connections and getting yourself “out there”, but you’re also learning. You’re learning from what they have to share with you, and in turn you’re formulating your own thoughts, ideas, and opinions, making the conversation ongoing. This gives way to collaboration, which is the ultimate goal for anybody wanting to learn more than they know now.

A handy name for this kind of connecting is a personal learning network, or PLN. PLNs are developed for someone to learn more about certain topics and join the conversation themselves. Though its most talked about in the education sphere, PLNs are for everybody; for example, if someone wishes to learn how to ride a unicycle, they can use Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, Google+, or their choice social media site to find people with the same interest, unicycle riders with helpful tips, or even the best sites to buy unicycles from. These network-based relationships can be in-person as well, but the PLNs specialty is that it is digitally-based. Your PLN can be as broad or as specific as you wish for it to be; it can encompass every interest you wish to learn about or one in particular.

That’s the best part about the PLN; it’s completely individualized. You are in charge of who you network with, which means you get to decide what or who you learn from. I find this enticing. I had never heard of this prior to this week, so naturally I had a curiosity toward my own PLN. I began to follow fellow educators, sites dedicated to literature, reading, and the like, and a few calligraphy and art blogs as well. The more I looked into what these people and sites were posting, the more excited I got. I was even more excited when some of the pages I followed followed me back! It’s like I’ve unlocked a plethora of resources tailored specifically to me. How cool is that?

In regards to forming and maintaining my PLN, I found Howard Rheingold’s tips on cultivating a PLN even more helpful. One of the most helpful things was paying attention to the “signal to noise ratio” of what I follow. I’ve found that some of my pages I’ve followed previously don’t merit my attention for the kind of network I want, and cleaning them out is helpful. Engaging with the people you follow is another; it seems common-sense, but in reality it’s easy to follow people, take in their information, and leave it at that. Step outside your comfort zone and reply to tweets or posts they make. See what they’ll say!

I’m having fun with my PLN so far. I’ve already followed some great pages that I think I’ll get a lot out of, but only time will tell how my network will expand. I see this as an EXCELLENT tool for myself and my future students (I put it in caps to show just how great it is) and 21st century learners as a whole.

Keep on networking!

Learning Calligraphy: Week 2

When I began this project, I thought I would learn a style or two of calligraphy and be satisfied. Even though there are dozens of beautiful styles that appeal to me, I wanted to focus on a few and do my best to master those few and call it a day. It was relatively cut and dry, and my focus was locked.

That changed when my supplies and book came.

As I eagerly (but carefully) opened my pen package up and began reading my directions of use, I was blown away at what all I could do with my three nib sets and a touch of ink. In the small manual there are five styles (Chancery Italic, Gothic, Sheaffer script, Unical, and Roman Serif) of calligraphy, and I wanna know ’em all. Luckily, I can; not only do I have detailed instructions on how to use my pen, but I am also given guidance on the degree to hold the pen at, how to “swoop” the letters, and general tips on each style. I was also given a pad of paper for practicing my letters.

I thought that was cool until I opened up my book. Let me tell you all, this book is the WHOLE PACKAGE; it’s divided into four sections, each having to do with creative lettering; the first section and the one I focused on deals with modern calligraphy. The second section outlines illustrated lettering, which includes the use of watercolors as well. Section number three is chalk lettering, and the grand finale is lettering crafts, which includes calligraphy in wood burning, glass designs, cards, and porcelain plates. This book is basically a treasure trove of all things related to creative hand lettering, and I am in paradise. Not only will I be able to make cards as per my original plan, but I can also make chalkboards, glass etching designs, and decorative plates with my calligraphy on them. Total score.

Now is time for the actual work I’ve done this week. I started by getting used to my pens and experimenting with my tools. I bought the Sheaffer fountain pen, which comes with three screw-on nib sizes (broad, medium, and fine), 20 ink cartridges in assorted colors, and three comfort grip pens. Inserting the cartridge was relatively easy, and it only took a couple shakes to get the ink flowing. The flow was much thicker than I anticipated (even with the fine nib), and while reading the introduction to the book I realized I was working with a completely different kind of pen than the author is using (the author uses an oblique pen, which is much more fine and flexible tipped as well as dipped in ink wells rather than using cartridges).

Because of this, my letters were much chunkier, but the shape was satisfactory. I learned that it is crucial to hold your pen at a 45 degree angle for optimal flow, especially when you’re trying to get thinner lines. Also, you need to go slow. Given that the only uses I’ve had with cursive have been hurriedly writing my signature for rent checks, this aspect took some practice. The book starts out with doing hand flourishes as well as lower case letters, which is shown below.


As you can see, my writing is FAR from perfect. It took me a while to get the hang of the extra flowery flourishes; this is coming from someone who loves cursive and has a relatively easy time producing nice cursive. I can see why everyone says it takes careful practice and patience, because I spent quite a deal of time on just flourishes and lower case letters.  I hoped to get to upper case, but I wanted to devote a decent amount of time and get a good grasp on these basics first.

Though there were some unexpected challenges, I can say that I enjoyed every bit of learning more on calligraphy this week. As I learn from these classic styles I want to create my own style, which is highly encouraged in the book. It’s all part of the journey, right?

Until next time.