Techs & Balances

“Yes, kids love technology, but they also love legos, scented markers, handstands, books and mud puddles. It’s all about balance.”   – K.G. 1st Grade Teacher 

In my classroom, there are eight Ipads making it a 2:1 student to iPad ratio. Still with a 2:1 ratio it’s important to be aware of the challenges of unnecessary use and it’s pivotal that I explicitly stress a balance early on.  As a Kindergarten teacher, I understand that the majority of my students are using an iPad for learning for the first their very first time.  My job as an educator when it pertains to rolling out these digital devices relies upon, the emphasis on balance, the promotion of ownership and shared responsibility,  and finally, deliberate and delicate approach dedicated to unraveling the misconceptions with both students and parents.

Each our classroom iPads have two student’s names stickered onto the back. The Ipads are enclosed in Kinder friendly and Kinder proof colored coded cases. Even with a 2:1 ratio, the students are still able to develop a sense of ownership over their devices. For starters, they have agreed to all signed the responsible use agreement / Ipad essential agreement that we came up with at the beginning of the year, agreeing to be respectful, responsible. In additioneach student also has their own personal folder on their device. That folder is used for them to store their iTime work.

I think the 2:1 ratio works well with this age group for two reasons. First, it promotes group work when we are researching, recording, collecting evidence, or helping one another on big projects.  Second, when doing independent work, such as when they add content to their individual iTime folders, it ensures that only a portion of them are handling iPads for a short period of time. These folders, saved on the iPad, allow my students preserve their work and showcase the progress of their passion projects over an extended period of time. Individual iTime folders also provide them have more opportunities to have a voice in what and how they learn.

Although it’s not 1:1 in my classroom Karen Kane 41 Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Your 1:1 Classroom still had some excellent takeaways. Specifically,  Reorganize your classroom space and flipping lessons.  

Mindful Moderation & Managment

When it comes moderation both the age of my students and the 2:1 ratio are both in my favor, however, real management has to be built over time. At the beginning of the year, I emphasized the importance of ensuring that my students understand that their time on the iPad is for learning purposes only. It has been explicitly stated in class over and over that the iPad is for creating, recording, and researching.  Apps on our iPad are only centered around open-ended creation tools such as Book Creator. Recordings are done through the use of SeeSaw or the camera app. Research is done by using Google Voice and asking questions through Google’s mobile app.  What they might do with an iPad at home is vastly different then what they do with them here. This took some time to explain and enforce as due to their age, many of my students have never used an iPad in this way before.  This works in my favor but it also extremely vital that as a role model, and one who might be introducing this tool for the first time in their lives, that I promote positive and purposeful use.

At this age, it’s equally important to Educate the parents for the same reasons.  By getting involved with events such as  Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Mornings or informal Q & A workshops like Kim Cofino mentions in her post Living with Laptops from YIS,  you get everyone on the same page and alleviate any misconceptions and fears about passive screen time. Parents can help model similar structures and limits at home, reinforcing that home-school connection. As educators, we can introduce them to resources from Common Sense Media.  They have an excellent site that has a whole section on parenting in the digital age.  The following snippet, taken from the article, “Will my child be left behind if he/ she doesn’t use technology?”, sums up how well Common Sense does in assisting and alleviating parental concerns.

“Whether kids are no-tech by choice or circumstance, it’s important that all kids are prepared for success in a technology-filled world. Even if you prefer a tech-light environment, you can still talk to your kids about healthy media habits, such as balancing screen time, and digital citizenship, such as being nice to people online

By setting the tone early on for both parents and students  I’m ensuring that everyone involved a sense of shared ownership and responsibility, thus supporting learning both on — and off — the device. 

Tech Breaks

Zooming out a bit from my Kindergarten lens, I realize that this is an issue that can potentially affect students at all grade levels. In all actuality, it’s probably a lot easier to curb the tech obsession with early years and lower primary students than it is for teens in secondary school.

“Today’s note passing is text messages.”  writes  Larry D. Rosen   in his article, The Amazing Power of “Tech Breaks ”  Later in his piece, Larry goes on to list a staggering fact from the Nielsen Company, “the average teen sends and receives 3,705 text messages per month, which translates to about 10 per waking non-school hour or about one every 6 minutes.”  Now, I’m not sure how many notes you wrote and passed in high school, but that statement sounds a bit excessive.  Rosen goes on to cite a national report by the Pew Internet and American Life  Project found.  stating that 58% of teens whose school bans cell phones have sent a text during class and 43% send texts at least once a day during class

As a member of the school’s technology committee, we have discussed the idea of rolling out Tech-Free Zones across our campus and unplugged time throughout the day. There have been talks to introduce and implement these new boundaries across the whole school at the beginning of the next academic year. Wondering now about similar resistance and backlash like the stats state above, I’m now leaning towards another unique strategy to curb teen tech enthusiasm.  Taken from the NPR article titled,  “Should College Professor GIve “Tech Breaks” in Class? , the specific method mentioned brings a whole new meaning to the term “tech break.” In this case, students are given 1-minute breaks to check in (or check out) on their mobile device. It’s certainly an interesting approach and one I’d like to run by tech committee colleagues.

It may seem radical at first but by allocating specific time for students to get their tech fix, the teacher is actually making a point to harness student attention on his watch, placing value on both his time and his students.  Periodic breaks seem to be far more reasonable then shaming or micromanaging.  If delivered consistently, I could really see this helping to maintain student focus. It’s a deal that pays respect to both parties and acknowledges the ever persistent elephant in the room.

Balancing Brain Evolution & The Digital Revolution

The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that controls attention, interest, motivation, and decision-making, does not fully develop until age 25. Therefore there’s still a major responsibility for teachers, teens, and parents to remain mindful of self-regulation as well as the impact that too much tech can have on the developing brains.  The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published a manuscript titledThe Digital Revolution and Adolescent Brain Evolution which goes into great detail on consequences and implications for adolescents in the digital age. It’s well worth the read and applicable to all of us.

Focused attention and participation as an age-old problem in Education, the inclusive of digital devices have certainly raised the stakes. Our fast-paced culture and ever-increasing infatuation with productivity haven’t helped either.  Implementing positive habits at a young age may be effective in the early years but as children, technology, and society continue to develop and change, we must aim for a respectful balance that addresses our needs and pays tribute to a shared responsibility to maintain a human to human connection.

Final Wonderings?

Are “Tech Breaks” the antidote for teens?

This week’s final wondering is a call back to a question from a #KchatAP that I recently hosted on Twitter.


COETAIL Course 2: Continental Connections

Course two is in the books or should I say in the blogs. Our group of international educators overcame both time and space as we collectively crosschecked and improved a Responsible Use Agreements for my current school UWC Thailand.  My awesome team included Coetail members Carolin Escobar currently living in the USA and Kehri Magalad currently living in Qatar.  We were also joined by Maria José Terán, a friend of Carolin’s and current tech coach at Carolin’s school.  Maria currently works out of Ecuador and happily linked up with us to offer her professional perspective and expertise.  Our group Google Hangout was an overall success, allowing four different people from four different countries, across a 12-hour time zone, to share and discuss ideas in real time. It was there that the seeds for our RUP idea were planted. We then played to our strengths and took ownership of different parts of the project, communicating through Twitter and in the comments of our Google Docs.

Looking back, I think might have benefited from using a social collaboration tool such as Whatapps or Viber but, we pulled it nonetheless.

Our Google Hangout

After some digging, I found that there are quite a few different platforms beyond Whatapps that we could have used to communicate. Here are 10  great social collaboration alternatives to WhatsApp.

RUP Background Information

Regarding the RUP, the document itself was a bit dated and not really owned by the students.  This year,  I have been tasked with reviewing and refining many of the UWCT documents that pertain to digital citizenship.

As a Kindergarten teacher, the first thing I noticed was they were left off of this document.  We decided to add them to this document because we all agreed that they are more than capable of understanding how to take care of equipment. Furthermore, after weeks of digital citizenship and footprint readings, blog posts and TED Talks, I realized how important it is to be ready to equip and empower young learners with technology that’s not being micromanaged.

In addition, I believe that it’s important to teach Digital Citizenship and responsible use at this age level especially at my school if we want to create any sense of vertical alignment in our primary school.

We also noticed that within the document there is also no mention of privacy. Safety is mentioned but there is nothing pertaining to privacy. This is another reason why we should have ISTE and Common Sense as our backbone, ensuring that we do not have any other oversights.  You’ll notice on our RUP that we have used the ISTE standard 3a, 3b, 3c, & 3d, all which fall under the category of digital citizenship.


Because we had many chats on students ownership, we also added a digital citizenship e-book for grades K-2. This interactive e-book will help engage our younger learners and keep the focus on digital citizenship in a developmentally appropriate way.

The eBook could easily be shared and personalized through a QR code, and or downloaded off of the web. This would be especially helpful if teachers wanted to replace the images with images of their own student’s in action, modeling how to be safe, responsible and respectful digital citizens.

Collaborating on this project was a wonderful learning experience. Using Google docs and slides to collaborate really helped us all create, communicate, and house all of our progress along the way. Gsuite for education continues to provide everyone with functional and user-friendly tools. Although time was against us, Google helped us connect globally and create this great cross-continental collaborative project.

Bridging the Digital Divide

We live in a digital world, but we’re fairly analog creatures.

-Omar Ahmad

 Just think about the five most important technology trends of the 21st century: search, smartphones, mobile operating systems, media, and the cloud. Now think about whether or not any if of those trends made it into your school? Perhaps, if you’re lucky, they all did. Things change fast in the digital realm and the increasing changes have shaken up learning so much that schools are just now beginning to absorb the aftershocks. More and more schools and teachers are encouraging students to post to blogs, text each other, and do their own work on their own devices brought from home. The learning benefits of flip classrooms, gamification, and social media have taken the internet by storm all while delivering overwhelmingly positive results. Generally speaking, learning looks different now. Much of the firm foundation that education has comfortably sat upon for the last three decades has shifted and it’s time now that all of us recognize and admit that the landscape will remain altered forever.

Update Available

The following article from @MindShiftKQED titled, “Making Media Literacy Central to Digital Citizenship” does an excellent job summarizing the evolution of digital citizenship, alongside the rising popularity of teaching and learning through videos on the web. Seeing how students consume information and interact with each other on the web continues to change and evolved, it’s important to note that digital citizenship in itself should not remain stationary.  Tanner Higgin from Common Sense Education, who authored the above @MindShiftKQED article states that,

“We need to move from a conflation of digital citizenship with internet safety and protectionism to a view of digital citizenship that’s pro-active and prioritizes media literacy and savvy. A good digital citizen doesn’t just dodge safety and privacy pitfalls, but works to remake the world, aided by digital technology…”

So the question becomes,  why haven’t we considered changing the way we view Digital Citizenship after all of these years? A DigCit version 2.017.  Why can’t we look at Digital Citizenship as an evolving software or digital platform that occasionally needs updating? We update our phones, our apps, and our laptops at least once a year but, still somehow choose to maintain an outdated version of Digital Citizenship in our minds and in our classrooms.  

Engineering with Empathy 

In my view,  school documents pertaining to Digital Citizenship should be intertwined or merged with the Communication Charters or Essential Agreements that mirror how we speak and care for each other in the real world. This would help the school develop a shared vision of Digital Citizenship while also acknowledging the importance of including all stakeholders. It also places it at the forefront of many discussions pertaining to the parallel skills in and outside of a digital space.  

Getting the students involved in the creative process allows for each voice to be heard and for each class to develop a collective understanding of its importance within the school and at home.

The synthesizing of these two school-related documents should also occur with more explicit emphasis on Common Sense Media and the ISTE Standards.  This collective culture pertaining to #DigCit can be spearheaded by the admin or leadership team, but ultimately will be individualized and purposefully designed for and by each grade level. 

The following infographic from outlines the parallels between being a good citizen and a good digital citizen.
Citizenship in the Digital Age Infographic

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics via 

Perhaps, once a common understanding is reached within each grade level, we could then ask teachers to share and compare their “tech agreements.” This will help the school and the teachers develop a better understanding of what it looks like it the grade level above and below them.  It also allows them to survey what the students want. This slow burn to the vertical alignment starts with the same sequence with teachers as it does with the students. Develop a shared vision by unpacking the language and understanding of each teacher’s perspective, and make connections between being a good citizen and good digital citizenship.  Afterwards, take the time to go through that delicate process of understanding the causation, the parameters, and the process to allow student-teacher ownership. This type of discussion will probably be ongoing, but that is a good thing!

The bridge between the digital divide separating digital natives from digital immigrants and outdated views from updated perspectives can be engineered with empathy, just as long as we don’t lose focus of our shared set of values. We can’t grow too comfortable in our acceptance of the way things are either, even if they might be okay today. Technology is an industry of increasing disruption and change, but within disruption and change, there is always an opportunity for growth, refinement, and behavioral action. Positively laying the structural framework, that connects everyone is our role as educators.

Final Wondering?

How do you identify consistencies that help bridge the digital divide and get everyone over to the same side?

Professionally Navigating Social Media

What do you know about your own digital footprint?”

“Have you ever reflected on the imprints you left behind?

These are the questions that we need to be asking both students and teachers.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a digital native or not, the physical realm and the digital realm have become so interwoven that everyone these days has a digital footprint. Technology and the radical social changes that come attached to it have completely changed our everyday lives. Social media and technology, whether you like it or not, have completely changed the way we interact with each other. The smartphone has replaced the camera. Cloud-based storage has replaced photo albums. You may not realize it but, you definitely have some left some sort imprint out there on the web. Don’t believe me, just have a look at this outrageous snippet from Business Insider  

That’s right. An estimated 120 billion photos will be taken in 2017 and a mere 10 % of them will be taken by a digital camera. 89.7% will be taken by a device that is most likely linked to social media. That’s a lot of potential uploads.  Keep in mind that this is just data pertaining to photos, it does not even account for the rest of one’s digital footprint such as emails, texts, forums, etc.

We’ve have agreed to trade-off our personal privacy and information for convenience, comfort, and entertainment. That die has already been cast. What we now must do now is self-reflect on the type of imprints we as educators have left behind and help others understand the importance and impact of their footprints from here on out.

A Professional Presence

In 2017 a  digital presence will certainly help aid you in attaining a job. Understand, however, that if left uncheck and uncared for it can at the same time lead to your future endeavors. An article from the Irish Independent, titled, Why your digital footprint could ruin your career, isn’t intended to be a scare tactic. It’s more of a wake-up call, bringing to light the awareness of the shifting guidelines revolving around our privacy our, digital choices, and real-life repercussions.

I know that I’ve gotten many interviews and at least one job partly because of my professional digital footprint. The interview mentioned looking at the contents of my professional teaching blog and my twitter. 
The following infographic below provides an interesting look into how recruiters use social networks to screen candidates.

In my last blog, I linked an article that focused on cleaning up your digital footprint.  Perhaps for teachers unsure of there’s, this would be a good place to start in order to develop and maintain one’s professional presence.

A Healthy Dose of Digital Awareness


Student’s should be taught about cyber ethics and netiquette from an early age just like they are taught about diet and well-being. I currently do it with my Kindergarten students.  I think it’s important that we look at maintaining personal protection and privacy the same way we look after our physical selves.  It is this mindset that parents, students, and teachers need to adopt. It’s essential that teachers maintain a healthy dose of digital safety awareness. It’s equally important for our students to fully understand the complexities of today’s digital age and how choosing to create a negative or unhealthy web persona could potentially jeopardize their future. More modeling from the top down, (admin to teachers, parents to students and even student to student), will help us all instill this paradigm shift into our own teaching and learning journeys, in and outside of the classroom.

Some teachers might view the digital realm and the physical world as two separate entities, but to the children and students who have grown up as digital natives, it’s all one.  The line between our personal self and our social media/ avatars is so strong that, Elon Musk claimed that we’re already cyborgs. Have a look at his entire chat from the 2016 Code Conference below

Final Wondering: With Great Power comes great (global) responsibility…

In that same video clip from the 2016 Code Conference, Elon Musk also mentioned that “We have more power than the president of the united states had 20 years ago.”  Is it not our civic duty to educate and encourage the next generation of web users?   Would it be wise to embedding #digcit classes into the curriculum like social & emotional learning, our essential agreements, and other approaches to learning?  Afterall, we need to teach students to become good citizens first and foremost. How many of you have thought about tieing it into the Global Goals for sustainable development?? If our goal as teachers is to make sure we leave the future of the world in the hands of good human beings then we need to start holding our digital footprint into the same high esteem as we hold our carbon footprint.  My final visual aid is from a Twitter chat last week, summing up my thoughts on weaving the real and digital world together with the same moral fabric. 

Being Internet Awesome in Kindergarten

We all know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and that sharing is caring but, in this new digital age of social media, mashups, memes, the line of ownership it becoming as blurred as Robin Thicke’s copyright infringed song. Perhaps he would have benefited from first viewing this free to use public Prezi.

With streaming sites, P2P, & Youtube now more popular than ever, more and more artists, creators and consumers are experiencing and/or violating some very similar copyright issues.  As an educator and quasi-digital native, I’m fully aware of how easy it is, in this day and age, to share or use something without citing the original source.

Regarding my own digital footprint and this blog specifically, when I post a snippet from an article or quote, I ensure that I have permission to embed it and/or link it back to the appropriate site in order to give credit where credit is due. When it comes to photos I use for my blog posts, I make sure that the image is either from my personal collection or that I have asked the person who took the photo for their permission. The same probably could be said for quite a few of the places I have previously lived and worked.

Copyright laws here in Thailand are definitely not black and white. Living in Phuket, one could go buy a bootleg DVD of a movie that’s still in theaters at the local night market down the street. Obviously, this throws a wrench into one’s attempt to teach and model copyright consideration. I have noticed this at nearly all international postings throughout Asia and Africa.

One way to combat this, in addition to modeling fair use in the classroom, is to educate our parent communities. If we can get the parents on board that’s half of the battle no matter where we’re located throughout the globe. I do think as educators that this is a large part of our responsibility. Without proper parental buy-in, we as teachers are going against the grain. I also think having a parent workshop would be hugely beneficial for our parent community. Like the mother mentions Youtube video below. She’s not able to be around here son 24/7 to protect him from all that is the internet. Parents (and older siblings) need to understand the role that they play in this equation and if they can model and promote proper internet etiquette and copyright procedures then we become a much stronger united front when educating our children.

It’s never too young to discuss and teach about plagiarism. Similar to my venture into teaching Digital Citizenship, I believe that with the proper delivery and age-appropriate resources, students aged 5 and 6 can certainly make connections to what’s there’s and what isn’t. It must start small be and always remain relevant. Perhaps it could begin with with the student’s claiming ownership of their own work first then widening the lens to the classroom, school community, and internet. Speaking of internet,  Be Internet Awesome by Google would be surely the most effective way for me to teach this concept to my Kindergarten students. It will require some scaffolding and guidance but it certainly has all the tools and looks fun and engaging. It’s also aligned with the ISTE standards!

Be Internet Awesome is AWESOME

I love that the learning is delivered through a game. I’ve recently been looking the benefits of Gamification within the classroom and I’m loving what I see. Having said that, I think that the timing would be perfect to roll both out at the same time. So, I recently downloaded their free curriculum and plan to adapt just light slightly to use with my Kindergarten students.  I’m hopeful that once they can understand and apply the new vocabulary, they’ll see how this connects to our current look into digital citizenship and footprints. Having such responsive and engaging platform, in Google’s Interland will further reinforce what’ we’ve already learned in the best way possible, play.

Final Wonderings
To Meme or Not to Meme? 

As much as I’m a fan of mashups and remixes, I have been thinking about starting out small, like to get into the creation of memes in my Kindergarteners Once we develop an understanding of the vocabulary within the Be Internet Awesome & Digital Citizenship journey, I’d like to give it a shot. What’s your experience with Memes? Have you ever tried to create any with your class? Currently, my student’s are obsessed with emojis and using symbols to convey meaning. I’m hoping that a venture into the world of memes could be our next step.

Thoughts or advice?



Press Start : Digital Citizenship in Kindergarten

My two most significant modifications and tech takeaways thus far have both been centered around purposeful and authentic student learning. The first takeaway is to ensure that I counterbalance my use of technology as a tool with another tool that highlights the pedagogy. This includes tools such as ISTE Standards, SAMR Model and/or TPACK. Developing the why behind the device or digital tool is also key to my second takeaway, the ongoing effort of empowering the students to become prosumers. This more abstract and conceptual understanding paves the way and highlights the importance of their involvement in the creation of their digital footprint. The Coetail readings and writing I have encountered have taught and inspired me to realize the importance of realizing that digital citizenship is an ongoing journey and one that should be started as soon as possible.

Beginning the Journey Purposefully by Creating Tech Essential Agreements

Unpacking and communicating the “Why” behind the big ideas within a Kindergarten classroom often requires a bit of essence and finesse. In a sense, it’s metacognition meets the breaking of the 4th wall. This is what we encountered with our first crack at accountability when collectively developing our Ipad essential agreements. We had to first come to terms with a common foundation, an acceptable use policy so to speak. In our classroom, nothing is Taboo or off limits. We approach everything positive intent. If an incident occurs that doesn’t correspond with our Essential Agreements, we unpack the causation behind, it talk it out and then attempt to learn from it. Needing to understand and agree upon the language of that foundation is key. Introducing and unpacking language does take time but it’s a delicate and important process in our attempt to understand one another. This blog, from the IB website, is a great resource for those interested in formulating essential agreements collectively. Getting the students involved in the creative process allowed for each voice to be heard. Later, we compared our newly formulated iPad essential agreements with our mindful communication essential agreements, looking for a common language or theme. The words, respectful, responsible, & safe appeared in both sets of agreements. This coincidence was wonderful to explore with the kids and taught us a valuable concrete lesson. How we treat each other in life should bare no difference to how we treat our tools or one another in the digital world. By Identifying these consistencies we’ve already begin to highlight the moral and purpose of our digital learning journey. Be respectful, responsible, & safe.

Empowering Learners to Continue their Journey

The article Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom by Mark Prensky, really helped provide me with inspiration and perspective on how to creatively work with within your given parameters. SeeSaw, the wonderful, student & family friendly learning journal is not new to me but the idea of using it as a tool to help educate parents and students about Digital Citizenship is. Mark Prensky’s article reminded me of the importance of what he calls “ enlightened trial and error” What better way of embarking on a new frontier of educating parents and Kindergarten students alike then by using a shared platform that documents our adventures or misadventures in real time.

By allowing the students to take ownership of SeeSaw. A cycle of creation, reflection, & refinement ensues. New understandings and new connections are made throughout the process of a familiar product. This “new way of using an old thing“ allows student learning solidify. This process of recording, presenting, and using technology is just the beginning of their interactive SeeSaw learning journey as well as our #DigCiz journey. Going back to my first takeaway, the tool to indicate the purpose, I used the ISTE NETS Students 2016 Content & Learning Targets. Feel free to click to link to the Google Doc so that you can make a copy for yourselves.

What I have noticed lately, is that the students are also looking more critically at their own work, choosing their favorite piece and becoming prosumers in the process. Each week we review the comments written their parents and grandparents allowing them to begin to develop an understanding of the impact and reach of their personally created uploads. In addition, we have also been looking at what a good video. Allowing them to have complete creative control may seem daunting and disaster-ridden from the outside looking in, however, like our essential agreements, with time and essence it’s extremely empowering. From, presenting confidently to experimenting with lighting, noise, & sound, the last few weeks the students have begun to develop a critical eye through a collaborative and constructive approach. All of our trials and all of our errors are revisited, discussed similar and shared with peers and parents on our class blog and individual learning journals.

Here’s a nice little wheel chart by @Tedfujimoto illustrating 8 digital skills that we must teach students.  Can you identify which ones we are covering now?

The most important part is that we’re all in this together and we will all be helping each other improve along the way as we move forward with this collaborative classroom approach to learning about permanence. Putting it all out there, at this age, is in some ways a method of teaching them how a digital footprint works. How the internet works. Once it’s out there it’s out there. Therefore it’s best to equip oneself with the personal values and beliefs, ownership, and knowledge of their roles as digital natives. Or in the eyes of a Kindergarten student, it’s about being respectful, responsible, and safe.

Final Wondering: Justifying the importance Parents

As teachers continue to nourish the tiny or impending digital footprint Kindergarten or primary students in general,  I can’t help but think about the important role that the parents play in the grand scheme of this. Educating the parents of Digital Citizenship is equally important as educating students. In what way to do you include parents in process of Digital Citizenship in your classroom? How do you get the parents on board? What, if any, resistance from parents regarding Dig Ciz have you encountered?