It was 1998. I was teaching 5th grade, and my students adored Britney Spears. OK, OK… I’ll admit I was a bit of a Britney Spears fan-girl myself, and was pretty happy when my then-boyfriend/now-husband gifted me a “Baby One More Time” CD for Christmas.
One of my fondest memories is when, at the end of that school year, three of my students presented my end-of-year gift -- a ticket to the Britney Spears concert -- which I attended with them (and their parents!).
At the Britney concert with three of my 5th grade students! Their parents even came to pick me up!
The New York Times Presents | Framing Britney Spears
The other day, I watched the documentary, The New York Times Presents | Framing Britney Spears and have not stopped thinking about it since. It chronicled the rise of Britney Spears’ career, her (mis)treatment by the media, and the current challenges she faces with conservatorship which has led to an energetic call to #FreeBritney.
It made my heart truly ache for Britney Spears.
It was weird looking back on the events, remembering them so clearly, as well as my reactions at the time. To me back then, Britney’s hardships were just bits of pop gossip -- something to laugh at, poke fun of, then go back to my normal life.
I remember when Britney stated publicly that she wished to remain a virgin until marriage.
I remember when Britney and Justin broke up, and he announced his sexual experience with Britney to the world.
I remember when an interviewer told Britney that everyone was talking about her breasts.
I remember when she shaved her head, when she umbrella-bashed the photographer’s car, and when she was involuntarily taken into medical custody.
Watching the documentary, I felt ashamed of my lack of empathy for my fellow human back in the early 2000s, as I devoured the media gossip just like everyone else -- without consciousness. The show also illuminated my acute lack of media literacy and understanding of how media shapes the world. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
A Case for Media Literacy
Media literacy, in a nutshell, involves understanding and assessing the messages (and the impact of those messages) sent via various media formats. Media literacy requires an understanding of language, bias, emotion, and context; an individual with strong media literacy also examines his/her own tendencies in media consumption. Media literacy also involves thoughtful media creation.
Because technology and social media have amplified the spread of media and “fake news” (i.e., misinformation) it’s easy to think of media literacy as a “digital-age” problem. The truth is, while it may be more visible now, the need for media literacy is not new, and media literacy skills apply to print media as well as digital media.
Now… getting back to Britney Spears.
If I had stronger media literacy skills back in the day, I would have noticed how interviewers were speaking differently to her, and asking different questions than they were to male pop stars. I would have noticed the bias built into her interviews and their contribution to unequal gender treatment.
If I had stronger media literacy skills back in the day, I would have been far more cognizant of how MY/OUR media consumption habits drove what was published. That a popular icon’s downward spiral turned into the headline of the week -- and because they sold magazines, those sensationalized headlines and shocking photos taken out of context (2000s version of “clickbait”) drove the paparazzi to extreme and dangerous measures that some may argue further contributed to Britney’s decline.
If I had stronger media literacy skills back in the day, I would have realized that much of what I was reading was pure garbage. That when a “source close to Britney” (rather than a named source) tells all, it’s likely to have been made up. And that when a sentence in an article ends with a question mark, it is also likely to be untrue. I would have more consciously realized that the tabloids were simply serving up what we were purchasing.
When we help our students to think critically about media and its messages, we help them gain important skills they need to navigate both print AND digital media. We help them interpret, analyze, and make decisions about how they will interact with that media, as well as empower them to consider how they can contribute to a given cause.
After watching the Britney Spears documentary, I can see how (after removing the words “online” or “digital”) each of the following digital citizenship indicators were violated by me and my fellow pop-gossip reading peers of the early 2000s:
While I wrote this post as a reflection of my own digital citizenship and media literacy awareness, I also hope that it illustrates the ever-present and ongoing need to teach media literacy as a critical part of the curriculum. How might we elevate these skills by embedding them into existing curriculum? I’d love to hear your thoughts and extend the conversation to strengthen media literacy education.
I also want to extend my very best to Britney Spears and her ongoing challenges.
It makes sense that digital wellbeing tips and tricks have been circulating the edu-web at a higher frequency lately, as most of us are eager for any tip, trick, or magic potion to help us achieve more of it.
Tips and Tricks vs. Beliefs
Tips can be great when they offer something that is specific to the goal we want to achieve. For example, when I realized that most of the time I spent on social media consisted of mindless scrolling, I followed a tip to set an automatic daily time limit on Instagram. Now the app kicks me out when my 15 minutes are up. It works!
But tips and tricks may not be as effective when we hold underlying beliefs that justify our existing technology habits.
What I mean is… If we believe that being available and responsive at all times is what makes us successful at work, a tip about batch emailing probably won’t curb our obsession with checking email or DMs. If we believe that constant news consumption makes us more informed, we might just be driven to an unhealthy media diet that even the best tip won't change.
7 Beliefs Statements to Consider
Before you dive into another digital wellness tips and tricks list, take a moment to reflect on the following 7 beliefs -- and ask yourself whether any resonate, and might be promoting unhealthy digital habits in your own life.
1. I need mindless activity to relax. This is the only “me” time I get.
If you believe this, you might be choosing mindless scrolling over more healthful “me time” activities.
Resource: 15 Things to Do Instead of Scrolling Mindlessly Through Facebook
2. Good teachers are responsive to their students and families at all times
If you believe this, you might be answering emails at all hours...or feeling guilty if you’re not. << both impede wellness.
3. What I’m doing (on my device) is very important and must not wait
If you believe this, you might be ineffectively prioritizing your time and activities.
4. Consuming media = staying informed
If you believe this, you might be consuming far more media than is healthy. This may also impact your mood and emotional state, depending on the content of the news/media being consumed.
Resource: The Art of Being Well Informed
5. I should learn all of the best technology tools for my class
If you believe this, you might be in total burnout mode from over-consumption.
6. It’s important to be understood and validated; I need to clarify myself when people misunderstand something I’ve said
If you believe this, you might be spending a lot of time and emotional energy posting and responding on social media.
Resource: Being Misunderstood is Painful
7. Apps are designed to connect us with friends and provide lighthearted entertainment
If you believe this, you might be overlooking signs of tech obsession.
When you identify a belief that keeps you locked in to a behavior, you're better equipped to notice those thoughts as they emerge... and thus, you may just find it easier to make different decisions!
Once again teachers, thank you for all you do, today and always. Please take care and be well!
I created this simple graphic with the belief statements.
And if what you really need is just a few tips, check these out.
I’m not a psychologist or behavior expert, though wellness has long been an area of interest and study. I’ve also been actively investigating what it means to be well with technology, and to encourage healthy digital citizens.
Now, more than ever, we are all using technology to work, learn, entertain ourselves, and connect with others! This increased use of technology gives teachers, students, and family members a lot to think about!
Learners of all ages may be wondering:
That's why this just may be the perfect time to consider hosting a family night specifically focusing on tech and social media use!
Here are three reasons to host dig cit family event!
1. Help families get on the same page about tech & social media use
Parents may feel uncomfortable about the amount of time their kids are connected, and have questions about who they're interacting with and how. Kids can feel frustrated when they feel they're using technology responsibly, and technology rules & limits seem unnecessary. A digital citizenship family event can be a powerful way to promote dialogue and build more understanding among family members as they explore and discuss their digital experiences and values.
2. Strengthen school & home partnership
The benefits to building a strong community are countless! When parents feel connected to their child's school, teachers, and administrators... when they are engaged in school activities they find meaningful and supportive, they are better equipped to support learning. And since so much learning is happening at home (with and through technology), strong school-home partnerships become even more important! Hosting a dig cit family event gives you the opportunity to forge positive relationships with your community.
3. Foster a CULTURE of digital citizenship
Many schools recognize the importance of digital citizenship. Some may have a speaker come in to talk about responsible tech use; some may even include digital citizenship lessons as part of classroom learning. But if the goal is to help students grow as positive and empowered digital citizens, we want to find ways to embed it into the culture. When you give students and their families an opportunity to think critically about their digital lives, you help instill a culture of digital citizenship.
How can I get started?
In partnership with my friend and digital citizenship colleague, Dr. Kristen Mattson, I have developed a simple, yet powerful concept that promotes reflection, dialogue, and sharing among family members, focusing on aspects of digital life. We present this family night concept in this FREE guide.
Please use and share this resource with colleagues.
And when you host your digital citizenship family event, I hope that you will reach out and let me know how it goes. Together, we can figure out the best ways to support our students and their families to become more informed and confident digital decision-makers! Let's continue this conversation!
And as always, thank you, educators, for all you do.
What is The Social Dilemma?
The Social Dilemma is a Netflix docu-drama (documentary with an embedded fictional dramatization) about the explosion of social media throughout the past decade and the ensuing damage to us (its users) and society as a whole. It features several Silicon Valley early innovators who send warnings that might just make you want to chuck your phone right out the window.
This film takes us "behind the curtain" so to speak of the tech companies who bring us platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Pinterest. Commentary from the innovators, engineers, and masterminds behind the platforms heightens the believability that: 1) social media is mind-f'ing us, 2) we are all addicts (or well on our way), and 3) society is doomed.
I won't spoil it for you by giving away the reasons for #1-3 above because there's too many nuggets to adequately share in a blog post. I encourage you watch it and see for yourself. It will likely open your eyes (or serve as an important reminder) that tech companies' motivation is not altruistic; it's financial -- and that they are designing this stuff to keep us coming back for more no matter the consequences.
The reaction that I've seen from my personal social media connections about the film has been fear, anger, and the urge to purge all technology.
It seems to be having an impact.
But not everyone thinks the noise this film is creating is spot on.
Casey Newton of the Verge wrote What 'The Social Dilemma' misunderstands about social networks which suggests that the film is shortsighted in pointing the finger with such one-directional clarity at the tech companies for society's ills. Not because he thinks the big social network companies hold no responsibility, but rather that they're not solely responsible and that overemphasizing their role oversimplifies a complex issue. He's not wrong.
Most of us spend more time than we'd like to admit mindlessly scrolling our social media feeds and watching entertaining but not highly purposeful videos on YouTube. We instinctively understand that this is not healthy, and that tech companies are having their way with us, but most of us don't really understand exactly how we're being played... or why.. or in what way, like, specifically. And frankly, I think most of us are okay not knowing. We don't want to know how the sausage is made. Just serve us up more dog videos, please.
The problem with not knowing is that we are engaging with digital content in ways that actually shape who we are and what we think -- without us realizing it. It's only when we decide we want to know more, including how the technology works, what drives its design, and how its functionality can manipulate our behaviors and thoughts, that we can equip ourselves to make more intentional decisions to reduce its power.
For me, watching this film is about just that -- understanding more so that I can be more intentional about my technology use. It's about recognizing what happens with MY data and YOUR data while I'm perusing my feed and clicking on intriguing links; it's about being mindful that my perception of what's real is influenced by the content that social media algorithms serve me. It's about lifting the veil on how the sausage is made -- the good, the bad, and the unexpected.
It's easy to watch this film and get sucked in to a fear mentality about technology and the path we seem to be heading down. It's also easy to feel overwhelmed with the problems that are presented in the film, and lack of solutions. Personally, I don't (and won't) buy in to the "society is doomed" narrative. There's a lot of good that has, and will continue to be done in the world with the help of social media and technology. I do, however, believe that it's up to us to be in the know so we can own our role in shaping the digital landscape and help create policies that work in our favor rather than the tech companies'. I prefer to think of the film, NOT as a doomsday warning about technology, but rather an important lesson about our ever increasing digital connectedness. A lesson that prepares me to lead and participate in more conversations that can help us shape a better digital future.
When we help our students see their role as citizens of the digital world, we help them to take ownership of the community we are all constantly creating. My friend and fellow digital citizenship enthusiast, Kristen Mattson describes digital citizenship as the intersection of technology and humanity. The Social Dilemma sits squarely at that crossing. Quality digital citizenship education asks students to explore real-life questions about technology ethics.
Educators who work with students of appropriate age (this film is rated PG-13) can leverage the content in this film to spark students' curiosity about the impact of technology on individuals and society (which happens to be indicator #15 for digital citizenship on Edvolve's framework). For example, students can investigate, research, and defend a position on a question such as: Whose responsibility is it to keep us (and our data) safe? The company's? The government's? Our parents'? Ours?
I've create a one-page "film brief" to help teachers and parents use The Social Dilemma as a starting point for meaningful conversations with students that includes a summary of the film, key ideas, and 6 questions that don't have easy (or "right") answers.
My hope is that this film can encourage both adults and young adults to become curious and willing to learn how the sausage is made -- to become empowered to take greater control of technology, instead of allowing it to control us.
Please use and share this resource with colleagues who work with age-appropriate students.
P.S. Netflix does not grant Educational Screening for the documentary, at least at the time this post was written. In short, this means that viewing the film "in-class" through a teacher's personal Netflix account is not allowed.
cameras on during class sessions. If you're not familiar with some of the privacy and equity issues associated with such a requirement, check out this infographic by Dr. Torrey Trust from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Empowering Students to Decide
I see the ability to turn cameras on (and off) as a perfect opportunity to help students become more in touch with their learning preferences and needs, and to take more ownership of their learning environment.
According to the ISTE Standards for Students, students are empowered learners when they customize their learning environment in both physical and online settings by making choices that support their learning process and make learning more accessible (ISTE Standard 1b).
Since there are benefits to students turning their cameras on, as well as remaining off camera, why don't we forgo a "one size fits all" requirement and instead, let students decide? We can guide students to consider the benefits and choose what feels best each day and in each moment.
Can students make good decisions? Might doing so inspire more student ownership over remote learning?
Yes. They can, and it does. This is what empowered learning is all about!
How can I provide guidance?
I've created a resource to help teachers begin this conversation with students. I hope it helps both teachers and students identify reasons they may want to be on camera, and the reasons they may not, so they are better equipped to customize their learning environment.
Please use and share this resource with colleagues.
As we continue refining our remote learning practices, new questions will continue to arise each day about how to manage the digital learning environment. Whether to have students on camera is one, and there will be a thousand more. Let's continue to talk, to discuss, to debate, and learn from one another so that we may identify/create best practices together. Thank you, teachers, for all you're doing now and always.
Zoom, Google Meet, New Tools -- Oh MY!
Teachers everywhere have taken incredible leaps with technology use during these past few weeks of school closure/remote learning -- and this is one effect from an otherwise tragic situation that is making my heart go pitter patter in the good way. #silverlining
As we transition our practice and adopt new tools, let's think about something that isn't always as prominent on our radar -- student privacy. To be clear, student privacy should be on all of our radars regularly, remote or in-person. However, transitioning so quickly to remote learning has opened up a whole slew of novel situations and increased the use of technology applications such that student privacy becomes an immediate, at-large issue that begs careful consideration.
Small adjustments can create a safer and more private experience for our class community. For example, it is safer to have students use first names only (or a pseudonym) rather than first and last name in any digital platform. It's safer to have them use an avatar rather than a photo as a profile pic. It's a good idea to explicitly and firmly ask students and parents to refrain from taking screenshots or photos of the class videoconference session and sharing them in online public spaces.
I created this "DO THIS, NOT THAT" infographic with a handful of simple practices that are easy to put in place and make a big difference when it comes to protect our students' identity and privacy. I've made this available as a PDF. Please feel free to use and share! Thank you to the incredibly talented and #digcit nerdy, Nancy Watson, for making this infographic an infographic for me. :)
No doubt, these are unprecedented times. Schools across the nation have shut their doors as we keep our distance to try to flatten the curve. The role of technology in our lives has blown up overnight as schools implement remote learning, we telecommute into work, and socialize via Zoom. More than ever, we are living and learning in digital spaces. More than ever, we are engaging in digital communities. More than ever, we are active citizens in the digital world.
This is new territory for many of us, and it's new for our students. As we begin to navigate these new digital learning spaces together, why not introduce the concept of digital citizenship? Just introducing the term will give students an opportunity to see themselves as part of a community and embrace their responsibility to positively contribute & work toward the collective welfare for all community members.
When we share the language of "digital citizenship" with our students, it opens the door for us to think and talk about digital behaviors in new ways. It gives us a chance to say, "We are citizens of the same community. What are our responsibilities to each other? How will we behave? How will we hold ourselves and each other accountable for our digital decisions?"
I've created a set of 6 posters (sized 8.5 x 11) designed to help teachers introduce the language of digital citizenship. I hope that they can help you... help your students identify as digital citizens who make healthy and positive digital decisions.
Please use and share the posters with your students and colleagues.
And teachers...thank you. Thank you for all you're doing to foster a sense of normalcy for your students, promote learning, and to model flexibility, resiliency, and lifelong learning during these challenging times. You are all heroes!
Like a lighted pathway, the ISTE Standards tell me where to go with my digital-age instructional practices
Circa 2001. I had accepted a new role as a "Technology Mentor Teacher" which meant that I would be helping teachers to effectively integrate technology into their instructional practices. I'd be coaching, model teaching, and helping to write "snazzy", tech-infused lesson plans.
Now for those who were teaching in 2001 (or those who were students at that time), you might remember that technology in the classroom was... well, scant. There just wasn't much of it. Not to mention, it had to be hard wired to the Internet... except that often, those connections didn't exist in the classroom. (It was hard to do tech infusion without much tech.) I was lucky because the teachers I worked with had 5 computers for student use inside the classroom, but the whole idea of tech infusion was in its infancy and we were all learning together.
Additionally, in 2001, there weren't a lot of models for effective technology integration. No TPACK; No SAMR; No Triple E Framework. Nor was there much tried and true experience that could clearly guide teachers in the right direction.
There was, however, the ISTE Standards!
*cue inspirational lighting and music*
At a time when classroom technology was brand new, "stuffing technology into a lesson plan" because it was new and fun was more common than any of us would like to admit. We knew we shouldn't be doing that, but... it was just so shiny and FUN! And did I mention, we didn't have models to guide us?
Thank the heavens for the ISTE Standards! Released by the International Society for Technology in Education in 1998, the initial version of the ISTE Standards (called "NETS" back then), alongside learning how to operate a computer, also emphasized technology for research, productivity, creativity, and problem solving. These standards represented how technology could enhance learning, and so became my north star... serving as a guide to help both me and the teachers I worked with to recognize the difference between "using technology to enhance learning" vs. "using technology for technology's sake." They illuminated the destination and clearly pointed us in the right direction.
The ISTE Standards (for Students) have gone through a couple of iterations since the 1998 version. And you know what? They've only gotten better. The 2007 version of the standards shifted its focus from USING technology to using technology to LEARN. And the 2016 version of the Standards push the boundaries even further as they aim to TRANSFORM teaching and learning.
In my present role, I talk to a lot of teachers who want to infuse more technology into their teaching practices... who know that technology can and should be used for more than leveled reading tests and canned curriculum software. Teachers who want their students to create innovative learning products, solve problems, and learn with others around the world... and who know that technology can help.
If you are one of those teachers ^^, the 2016 ISTE Standards can be your best friend. The ISTE Standards can light the path of possibility for more creative, collaborative, and student-centered approaches to teaching and learning. Today, they still serve as my north star and are, by far, still my favorite jam.
Like a lighted pathway, the ISTE Standards tell me where to go with my digital-age instructional practices
Listen, there's a lot of meat to the ISTE Standards. It would be easy for an enthusiastic and highly effective teacher to take a first look, and feel a little overwhelmed & frustrated not knowing where to begin.
Sometimes the right thing isn't always the easiest thing to do! And the ISTE Standards are the "right thing" when it comes to tech integration. Let's see if we can make it easy to get started.
To that end, I'd like to offer three SUPER SIMPLE ways to dip your toe into the ISTE Standards water, so to speak. Each of the ideas below aligns to at least one ISTE Standard and requires only basic technology skills to get going. Oh yeah, and they're also really powerful learning opportunities.
1. Mystery Skype (ISTE Standards: Digital Citizen, Global Collaborator)
Think 20 questions meets the 21st century meets global communication.
The premise here is to connect your students with another class somewhere around the world (but don't tell them where). Students engage their prior knowledge, critical thinking, and inquiry skills to guess where the class is located. So many thinking skills involved, and technology is merely the tool.
Read more about one teacher's experience with Mystery Skype.
Link to Mystery Skype
2. Online Book Club (ISTE Standards: Digital Citizen, Global Collaborator)
It's just so simple!
Whether you're doing a class read aloud, a literature study, or having students read independently, there never seems to be enough time for all the rich discussion in which you want to engage students. Why not use a digital platform to host book discussions? Cue up some thought-provoking questions, teach students about accountable talk stems, and watch the conversation unfold.
Many different tools would lend themselves to digital discussion, including Google Classroom, Edmodo, Schoology, FlipGrid, and Padlet, to name just a few.
3. Virtual Field Trips (ISTE Standard: Knowledge Constructor)
Take learning beyond the walls of your classroom!
Did you know that many museums, national parks, zoos, and other exciting places offer virtual tours/field trips for students? One of the most amazing things about using technology in the classroom is the way it can transport us to experiences that would otherwise not be possible. How do you find virtual field trips? Here are a couple links to start your search.
We all want to ensure that we are integrating technology into our instructional practices in ways that truly elevate teaching and learning. The ISTE Standards provide a guidebook telling us how students can use technology to become empowered learners, knowledge constructors, and creative communicators. Whether you're tech-savvy or a tech-newbie, you can implement the ISTE Standards. You don't have to master them all at once... you can choose one activity as an entry point to begin. See how it goes. Gain experience. Build confidence. Be Inspired. Let the ISTE Standards point you in the right direction.
P.S. If the ISTE Standards are already your jam, consider starting your journey to become an ISTE Certified Educator! Check out our session dates and contact me with any questions!
Since digital citizenship is always on my mind, I was thinking that this year, we might just forgo the gym memberships and diets and instead focus on a different aspect of our life that sometimes feels overwhelming and adds (or subtracts) from our overall health and wellness.... Our digital life.
Digital health & wellness refers to our physical and emotional health related to living life in the digital world. A few examples of poor digital health include:
Have you experienced one (or all three) of the above repercussions of excessive (or regular) technology-use? Personally speaking... all three. 🙋🏻♀️
Before committing to new digital habits, I recommend first taking time to reflect on your current ones. Why? Because "reflection is the mediator between knowledge and experience." When we think about an outcome (such as sleepless nights and terrible next-days) and reflect back on the decisions (like mindless scrolling), we can make connections that help us to make better decisions the next time.
Here are 6 questions we can all reflect on in the new year... parents, teachers, and students.
After reflecting on our habits, we can decide what kind of actions we want to take next. Here are a my top 8 ideas to get started:
Here's to a happy and healthy new year... may we all take one step forward toward increased digital wellness!
I used to think the term "digital citizenship" only referred to kids... as in, kids need to know how to be good digital citizens and use technology responsibly. For some reason, I didn't necessarily think of myself or other adults as digital citizens despite the fact that I (and other adults) engage in digital communities including social media on a daily basis. "Digital citizen" was just a kid-term in my mind.
But as I continue to examine my own digital decisions (and make mistakes) and watch others do the same, especially with social media, I realize that I, TOO, AM A DIGITAL CITIZEN!! ...that I am in digital community with others and am constantly faced with decisions about my own digital actions! That I have to grapple with online situations that involve ethics, safety, and my own personal values. That I have to consider relationships and how my social media use could affect them... because teenagers aren't the only ones learning how to fly this digital plane as we build it.
I've come to realize that I can better help students own their role as digital citizens when I own my role as one, too. When I am more mindful of my own participation in the digital world, I become a better role model for my students.
I created a 10-item self-guided reflection resource for teachers. The idea behind this resource is to give teachers (or any adult, for that matter) time and space to really consider their own thoughts and actions as they participate in the digital world... to see themselves as a digital citizen.
The resource is called "I AM A DIGITAL CITIZEN" and I'm happy to share it with you - Just click the button below to have the link emailed to you! Feel free to use this "record & reflect" printout alongside the I AM A DIGITAL CITIZEN resource. Enjoy!
I care deeply about helping educators cultivate healthy environments where every student and teacher can learn, grow, and thrive in this digital world!